Take the street kids bowling

Take the street kids bowling


Take the street kids bowling

Denver Dry Bones nonprofit makes homeless outreach personal

It’s a Thursday evening and 50 to 60 "street kids" are piling onto a bus. Mostly teenagers and into their 20s, their living situations range from "couch surfing," that is, crashing with friends, to abject homelessness, sleeping under bridges.

Today, they’re going bowling.

The scene repeats every Thursday, and volunteers like Laura, who asked that we not use her last name, help make it happen. Laura is a volunteer with Dry Bones, a Denver-based, Christian nonprofit that reaches out to the street kids of Denver. For her, that means chartering a bus to carry them from downtown Denver to Bowlero Lanes in Lakewood where, every week, they rent out ten lanes. When it’s time to come back, she and other Dry Bones volunteers provide a free meal.

It’s an unusual sounding approach, but Laura says turnout has grown, forcing them to book more and more lanes. "The word just spreads that Dry Bones is going to take you bowling," she says.

It is, of course, but one part of Dry Bones’ overall work. But to get to know the street kids – whom Dry Bones members don’t hesitate to call their friends – she says, it’s important. Their work isn’t measured by the hour, but by months and years.

Dry Bones staff member Matt Wallace can explain why. "Most of our friends have suffered some form of abuse," he says. "A somewhat typical story is to get passed from mom (who is addicted to cocaine) to grandpa (who sexually molests) to a foster parent (who is just looking for a paycheck) to a group home (where another young person acts out the abuse that has been done to them). More often than not, they get to a place where they say, ‘I can do a better job raising myself than anyone else has ever done.’"

This decision, he says, leads kids to the streets, and often to drug addiction.

The road to recovery is a long one, but it’s not as simple as throwing money or services at the problem. "They don’t trust you," Laura says. "They don’t trust you for months on end. They don’t think you really care about them."

To Dry Bones staff, that relationship is the first step, and if it takes months for street kids, who’ve been wronged by life at every turn, to open up to a grown adult like Laura, they’re prepared.

"We hope that there is not one young person living on the streets that can legitimately say or believe, ‘There’s no one in this world that loves me,’" said Wallace.

It’s only after that long struggle that most street kids will have enough trust to ask for the help they need. "Someone’s going to get help if they want help," she says. "If you try to force it, it’s not going to work."

In the meantime Dry Bones staff and volunteers do what they can to keep their friends safe and healthy.

That can include visits in jail or the hospital, 12-step meetings, public feedings and family-style meals at the table and even help acquiring documents like birth certificates and social security cards. For kids who have, as far as the public is concerned, fallen off of the face of the earth, it’s an important step to getting back on their feet.

But there’s also the unconventional, odd acts of outreach here and there – things that fall well outside most peoples’ ideas of the role of charity. Laura mentions, in particular, a photography class and exhibit of their photos.

"I was like, ‘photography?’" she recalls. "’They need a house! They don’t need to take pictures!’ … That exhibit, what it did for the people who had photos, it was huge. I ate my words so much after that."

In Laura’s line of work, those victories are rare and hard-won.

"In my orientation," she says, "they had a guy who was interning for a year. He said ‘the best way I can describe it is watching paint dry. If you’re coming in expecting to volunteer, walk away feeling like ‘I’ve changed somebody’s life,’ it’s not going to happen.’ It’s such a slow process. You should not be in it for yourself."

To date, the Dry Bones program has drawn so much attention that volunteers have been turned away. Church youth groups must even compete in a lottery system for weeklong visits in the summer. For more information, or to donate to Dry Bones, go to http://drybonesdenver.org.


Dodgeball tournament raises funds for Fullerton shelter

Dodgeball tournament raises funds for Fullerton shelter

By: Sarah Cruz
Issue date: 3/26/08 Section: News
The Staples Center hosted a charity dodgeball tournament to raise funds for a proposed youth shelter in Fullerton.

Stand Up For Kids, a charity organization focused on helping young homeless and disadvantaged youth, organized the event in coordination with California State Fullerton Public Relations students and the Oxford Academy.

The Saturday event featured over 46 local and national teams. The players competed for the championship trophy and the L.A. Dodgeball Society earned the first place award.

It is a misfit group led by captain Handsome Costanza. The Society was not formed specifically for this event; they are a recreational league of dodgeball enthusiasts who pride themselves on spandex and mustaches.

Other teams banded together just to participate in the tournament.

"It’s just for fun," Priscilla Chang, a member of JackPotLuck, said. Her team was led by Steven Hwang who is a volunteer at Stand Up For Kids.

Two years ago, Hwang created the dodgeball tournament. This year, the tournament moved to the Staples Center.

Stand Up For Kids is the recipient of the proceeds from the event. The center wants to build a shelter in Fullerton for homeless and street kids to have a safehaven away from the street.

"We rescue homeless and street kids," Dijon Turner, executive director for Stand Up Kids said. "We help them do the things they want to do. We spend time with them. If they want to get a GED, get back in to school [or] get an ID, we go together to the DMV."

The costumed and mustached players with their retro athletic wear helped bring to light kids who have been forgotten, Turner said.

"These are a group of people that are swept under the carpet," he said.

Stand Up For Kids provides food, hygiene items and counsel to kids. Turner said the charity exists for two main purposes.

"Our two main goals are to relieve suffering of street kids and homeless kids and to relieve the feeling of abandonment."

Turner hoped the event would bring awareness and increased visibility.

Five CSUF public relations students worked on the event as part of a requirement for their degree. Anna Ahle, one of the group members, encouraged students to participate in events such as the tournament.

"Some people think it’s too hard to get involved in volunteering," Ahle said. "They think it takes a lot of time and energy." The dodgeball tournament was a great way for people to volunteer and have fun without spending a large amount of time, she said

Fullerton may seem to be an odd choice for a youth shelter but despite its affluence, it is a gathering place for homeless and street kids, Turner said.

"Fullerton is a hub. You have the train station and traveling kids stopping in," he said.

Turner encourages students to not only become involved in Stand Up For Kids but to show respect and care for homeless and street kids they may meet around town.

"Be kind and respectful if you see street kids. Go and talk to them. They know people will give them money but they would rather have people talk to them."

Sitting Targets

Eliza Sohn

Sitting Targets

Sit-Lie Ordinance Takes Aim at Street Kids

Portland’s controversial sit-lie ordinance appears to be targeting a distinct group of homeless youth (or "street kids"), according to the latest enforcement statistics from the mayor’s Street Access for Everyone (SAFE) committee.

It’s true that the ordinance has overwhelmingly been used to target people without a fixed address: 62 people were issued verbal sit-lie warnings between August 30 and December 28 last year, only nine of whom supplied an address to the police officer involved.

Over that same period, only 10 citations were issued under the ordinance—citations are a step up from a verbal warning, and can lead to a fine or community service. Of those, eight citations were written to people born in the 1980s.

"The behavior of many of the teenagers and young adults who spend their days on Portland streets was the impetus behind the SAFE ordinance, as many businesses were impacted by the negative impression they were giving downtown," Mike Kuykendall, Vice President of downtown services for the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) and co-chair of the SAFE committee, tells the Mercury. "So it makes sense this group is receiving a majority of the warnings and citations."

"The folks we’re really having a problem with are these Road Warrior youth," said Central Precinct Commander Mike Reese, at a meeting of the SAFE group last Thursday, February 7. "I think we have to do some kind of outreach to them. Some actually want citations so that they can challenge them in court."

One man, Correy Gene Douglas Newman, 26, has been cited three times at the corner of SW 6th and Alder—outside the Rite Aid, a well-known hangout for the kids. Newman is challenging all three of his citations in circuit court on February 20.

Meanwhile Adam Ray Kuntz, 23; Samantha Bowen, 22; and Amber Anderson, who was born in 1980 but has since died, have all been convicted and fined $347—the maximum fine allowed—for sitting in the same spot.

Their citations prompted a discussion at last Thursday’s meeting of the SAFE oversight group.

"I’m noticing that a lot of these [citations] are for people aged 25 and under," said Sean Suib, associate executive director of New Avenues for Youth (NAFY)—a nonprofit which gears its services to the street kids. "I’m wondering whether there should be some specialized service designed for these youth?"

Most of the citations in questions were written between noon and 2 pm, when NAFY is closed. NAFY does outreach from 8-10 pm on Wednesday and Thursday nights, said Suib, and Outside In, another youth-oriented service provider, offers an 8-10 pm slot on Sunday and Monday nights. But the ordinance is only in effect from 7 am to 9 pm, and the street kids are reluctant to use the day services provided by SAFE to adults.

"We’ve experienced turf issues when you get that population in there," said Marvin Mitchell, who runs the SAFE group’s adult temporary access center at the Julia West House on SW 13th and Alder.

Nevertheless, funding more day services for the street kids with SAFE money doesn’t appeal to everyone.

"There’s a perception that the youth system actually already has under-used capacity," said Marc Jolin, of homeless outreach group JOIN. "I’m skeptical as to whether any SAFE-funded project would be very appealing to these folks."

"If we build it, will they come?" asked Kuykendall.

Others speculate that the PBA would be reluctant to give more of its money to support a group of people who are often cited as blighting downtown’s image in the eyes of suburban shoppers.

"The PBA is in a difficult position," says Rene Denfeld, who wrote a controversial book about a murder among Portland’s street kids called All God’s Children, published last year. "Everybody wants to promote downtown as a place to shop, and it’s not good business to have roaming groups of street kids. I don’t think the PBA wants to acknowledge the problem, and on the other hand, they want to solve it."

Admittedly, not all the troubling citations are against youth. One woman was cited despite saying her feet were swollen from standing all day. Another was cited without a warning, coming out of Rite Aid where her friend was already being cited, while another man was asked for his identification by a guard working for the PBA’s rent-a-cop firm, Portland Patrol, Inc.—PPI guards aren’t supposed to ask for ID.

"The ordinance is something that all homeless people should be concerned about, and probably the entire city," says Patrick Nolen, community organizer for Sisters of the Road.

"But at least in terms of perception, it does seem to be targeting one segment of our population," Nolen continues.

S.L. center for youths treats homeless to an early feast

Respite from streets

S.L. center for youths treats homeless to an early feast
By Elaine Jarvik
Deseret Morning News
Published: Thursday, Nov. 22, 2007 12:09 a.m. MST

Katt has a saying: "Concrete flows thicker than blood or water any day of the week." By blood, of course, she means the people she’s related to, who by and large haven’t been very reliable. As for the concrete, she’s talking about the street. And by street, she means the sidewalks and the public plazas and the abandoned buildings that house Salt Lake City’s homeless young people.

If you live on the street, say the kids who do, other street kids are your family. So it was fitting, on the eve of the most traditional of family holidays, that Katt and her friends shared a Thanksgiving meal Wednesday afternoon at the Homeless Youth Resource Center on State Street.

Dinner was served at 4 p.m. so that the last of the pies would be gone and the chores done before everybody was shooed out the door at 7. Because of funding problems, the Homeless Youth Resource Center is only open for eight daytime hours; after that it’s back to the street, maybe to go couch surfing at the apartment of a friend of a friend, maybe to squat in a boarded-up warehouse, maybe to walk around all night, high on meth, trying to keep warm.

Official average age of those who gather each day at the center is 19 or 20, says Zachary Bale, director of outreach services for Volunteers of America, which runs the center. Some of the kids may be younger but lie about their age for fear of being reported to the Division of Child and Family Services, he says.

You don’t "age out" of the center until you’re 23. The "youth" in the center’s name refers to development and education levels more than mere chronology, Bale explains. Some of the homeless at the center have addictions and mental-health issues, some are the product of unstable upbringings. Hardly any are the kind of bohemian street kids you might find in Seattle or Portland, rich kids just trying to be street kids, Bale says.

Some have run away from abusive or strict or neglectful families. Some have aged out of the foster-care system and don’t know what to do next. And, frankly, some think the world owes them something, says a 21-year-old named Cara. "It’s ‘screw you, give me free stuff,"’ she says. "That’s harsh, but I was exactly the same way."

Cara is sitting in one of the back rooms of the center, near a poster of the young James Dean, another rebel without a cause. On the street, says Cara, the mindset is, "If you don’t have to" — pay bills, follow rules, do a 9 to 5 job — "why do it?"

Cara says she’s had enough of that, though. Now, she says, she wants to settle down with her boyfriend and raise the baby that’s due next spring. Like other street kids who have moved on to living quarters with an actual address, she credits the Homeless Youth Resource Center with helping her learn to budget her money and maintain an apartment.

"They give you every skill you need to come out prosperous," says a 23-year-old named "Detour," who has aged out of the center but comes back for case management. Detour grew up with parents who were drug addicts. From age 6 to 9 he lived in a series of rundown downtown hotels and was sent out to panhandle during the day. After that it was a series of foster families. At 18 he started coming to the center.

"Once you’ve been on the street," says Katt, who has lived on her own starting at age 12 and is now 22, "it’s 10 times harder to keep a job." It’s a kind of cycle, sort of like drug abuse, she says. You start to climb out and then you slip back in. "If you haven’t grown up with what’s basic for society, then you don’t know how to do it."

For Thanksgiving today, Detour plans to cook a dinner for maybe 15 or 20 street kids and former street kids at his new apartment. "There will be two turkeys, all your vegetables pretty much, spaghetti, ham," he says. But no one has ever taught him the safety tips for thawing a 12-pound bird. The turkeys are in the bathtub, he says. Not in cold water, just in the bathtub, and have been since Tuesday.

Katt, too, will cook her first Thanksgiving dinner today, in the apartment she shares with her husband and baby. On Wednesday, the toddler was at the Resource Center gleefully twirling the glass disc in the microwave. Katt doesn’t bring him to the center very often though, she says. "I don’t want him to grow up thinking this lifestyle is something he wants to do."

Helping street kids help each other

Helping street kids help each other


She was 12 the first time she ran away, trading a troubled home life for life on the streets.

In the years that followed, Jaclyn Mellon would live an uncertain — and sometimes nomadic — life fueled by drugs, alcohol and desperation. She would couch-surf, sleep beneath bridges and in abandoned buildings, and shoot up heroin in public bathrooms.

There would be the predictable encounters with police. She would get pregnant twice, give the first baby — a son born when she was 17 — up for adoption. She would do — and deal — dope, land in jail and, eventually, end up in a treatment program.

Along the way she would meet Renton’s Elaine Simons. At 47, Simons stands just under 5-foot-1 and has long curly black hair streaked with gray.

"You can tell how stressed she is by how poufy her hair is," Mellon says with a laugh.

What Simons lacks in stature she makes up for in determination, and given her calling — working with street kids — that’s a good thing.

Raised in Bellevue, Simons graduated from Sammamish High School, went on to Bellevue Community College, then to the Rhode Island School of Design and Columbia University’s Teachers College.

By 1995, she was a middle school art teacher in the Seattle School District. That summer, working in an alternative school program and increasingly alarmed by the number of her former students she saw living on the streets, she helped her students organize a concert at the Seattle Center.

"Fifteen hundred people showed up," she says now.

That concert would become the seed for Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets, a not-for-profit headquartered on Capitol Hill that provides support and services to homeless youths and young adults.

"What makes us unique is that the kids help develop our strategies for helping them transition to productive lives," she says.

Three years after the concert that started it all, Simons left the school district to become the organization’s director.

Mellon was on the streets when Simons met her.

"She’s the mother I was meant to have," Mellon says. "She’s a mother hen. She says what she needs to say even if you don’t want to hear it. She’s totally compassionate and wants to help. But she doesn’t sugarcoat anything."

It was through the Streets organization that Mellon got her GED, completed an internship and found referrals for other agencies that helped with housing, her pregnancies and other needs.

"If I hadn’t had that support I would have left looking for something. … They were there through both my pregnancies, through my using and getting clean and my relapses," Mellon says.

Today, Mellon lives in Auburn with her fiance and their 14-month-old daughter, Wednesday, who was born while Mellon was finishing a six-month inpatient drug program.

A stay in a YWCA shelter in Kent followed her release, then transitional housing in Auburn. Recently, the family was approved for Section 8 housing.

"It means we won’t be in shelters any more. We’ll have a place to live," says Mellon, now part of a "Step Beyond" group, a Streets program for older youths who live in permanent housing, but still need support.

Her fiance, who also battled drugs and did prison time, is in recovery, holding down a job and planning to attend auto body school. Mellon, still in an outpatient drug program, plans to work while he finishes, then he’ll work while she goes to auto mechanics school.

"Hopefully, one day we’ll open a shop," she says.

Simons says people like Jaclyn Mellon "are what this agency’s about. We’re there for them when they make the decisions for whatever place in their life they’re in."

Now going on 13 years in the field, she has no plans to quit.

"I see a lot of people working with street kids leave, retire or change fields," she says. "But I still feel young — and so connected."


For information, go to www.psks.org.

Children’s Village van reaches out to county’s street kids

(Original publication: August 22, 2007)


Charles McKenley and his crew have seen just about everything – from a boy being shot dead while running toward them to a pregnant teen living under a bridge.

It’s these kinds of hectic encounters that keep them coming back week after week, driving a van through Westchester’s most desperate neighborhoods on a mission to find and help troubled youngsters.

Finding them is the easy part, as they proved when they pulled onto Orchard Place, one of the toughest streets in southwest Yonkers, on a recent Friday night.

"What’s up y’all?" McKenley, who supervises the Street Wise outreach program for Children’s Village, hollered as he stepped from the van and confronted several adolescents who were hanging out on the sidewalk. One was a 13-year-old boy who had reportedly gotten into trouble lately for robbing cars.

"How’re you doing in school?" McKenley asked the boy, who was standing next to a mother who staggered while sipping beer from a plastic cup.

At McKenley’s invitation, the child stepped into the van, flinching a bit as a man outside shouted at him, "Don’t come back tonight, I’ll kick your ass!"

The van, staffed by five people and equipped with a couch, educational materials and health supplies, provides these kids with a temporary refuge. It operates year-round on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, touring urban communities including Yonkers, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains, Mount Kisco, Peekskill and Ossining. They stop wherever they see clusters of kids.

"It’s the whole idea of bringing the mountain to Muhammad," said McKenley, 45, who grew up in the Schlobohm Houses public housing complex in Yonkers and now lives in Peekskill. "So many social service agencies have community centers and wait for children to come to them. But many youth who are living on the fringes aren’t going to go to a place to get services. We bring the services to them."

Team members lure teens inside with free snacks. Then they sit them down on the couch and lecture them for a few minutes about life and safe sex.

They also offer HIV tests and condoms, as well as information about other services Children’s Village provides, including job training, a runaway shelter and an emergency hotline.

The Street Wise program operates on a budget of about $150,000 per year, funded by the federal government and private sources. It was created in 1998 by Aron Myers, division director for Children’s Village’s Westchester Youth Services, based in Dobbs Ferry.

McKenley leads the street outreach team, which includes Kim Zinzal, a social worker who provides counseling, and 21-year-old Jhenee Grannell.

The staff also includes two "peer advocates" – 18-year-olds who, like Grannell, were raised in Yonkers and still have a fresh understanding of what it’s like to grow up in the inner city. This personal connection is the main reason they chose this job, and it’s also why many kids seem to trust them.

"Most of the time, youth are scared to ask questions," said Grannell, who started working for the agency’s drop-in center in Yonkers when she was 15. "It’s good for us to go out and speak to them, because they’ll feel more comfortable talking to people their own age, their peers."

But this is not the most stable of working environments. All members of the team have stories to tell about their experiences.

Cherelle Johnson, 18, told of her encounter with a teenage mother she found eating at McDonald’s with her baby.

"She explained to us that her mom kicked her out of the house and she needed a temporary living situation," Johnson said. "We helped set her up with the shelter."

Carlos Gutierrez, 18, recalled the night a homeless 17-year-old boy who hadn’t eaten for two days stepped into the van because he wanted an HIV test. They gave him the test and information about the shelter and hotline.

"He went from a sad facial expression to happy," Gutierrez said. "We were kind of like giving him hope. But he never got in contact with us again.

"We went constantly to see if we could find him, but we can’t," Gutierrez said. "That’s the reason we work on this job, because there’s definitely people out there like him and we hope we can help them, at least one every day."

Zinzal said her toughest night came two years ago, when a teen was shot execution-style as he ran toward the van screaming for help. He died in front of her.

Riding with the van for six years, she has seen it all. One night, a teenage girl told her that she had been impregnated by her mother’s boyfriend. Zinzal set her up with shelter and joined her in the hospital when she gave birth.

On another shift, she gave an HIV test to a 12-year-old girl who was having sex in the bathroom of her school. She came up positive.

Since last year, 10 children and adolescents have tested HIV-positive in the van. That’s why the team gives graphic lectures about sexually transmitted diseases.

"Just ’cause you can’t see it, feel it or smell it doesn’t mean you don’t have it," Grannell, rifling through pictures of various diseases, told the boy from Orchard Place, who is sexually active at age 13.

McKenley has been keeping track of this child, who was recently seen sleeping outside and whose mother just got out of jail.

"Don’t be on the street," McKenley admonished the boy as he exited. "If I see you again, you better just get on the van."

The team spent another hour driving through the city, stopping when they saw children and repeating the drill. Then it started to rain, and all the street dwellers ran for shelter.

"It’s time to call it a night," McKenley said as he drove back to their starting point in Getty Square. On the way, he saw a familiar teenager wandering along Main Street.

"Where you staying now?" McKenley asked the 18-year-old, who had spent a month in a homeless shelter and said he was now living on his own.

"I ain’t dead," the teen replied, then added, "I could have been dead or in jail if it wasn’t for you all."

Homeless kids

Homeless kids
Provided By: Ketchuppopsicle
… sorta documentary? idk… but it’s something i’ve been interested in for awhile and so when i met these two it was after i got home from the bus station. David had mentioned them and while i was gone they had been staying in the garage for a few days. When i got back there they were. I heard they were homeless and we went to walmart to get them $20 worth of food.

The second part is very personal, and i’m waiting until tomorrow to see if i can get ahold of them to ask if i can put it up.. maybe David will know where they are.
I don’t know whether i will actually be able to get in contact with them but i will definately try. They weren’t here when i woke up this afternoon…

By putting this up i’m not trying to expose or exploit them, i guess i just found them interesting and thought other people would as well.


Gutterpunks: New Orleans Homeless Street Youth – PRE Katrina

Gutterpunks: New Orleans Homeless Street Youth – PRE Katrina
Reporter Tim Estiloz visited New Orleans in this 1997 story about a group of homeless youth – dubbed by some in the city as “Gutterpunks”. Estiloz spent several days with this group of disaffected and indigent young people – many of whom willingly chose to live on the hard – sometimes dangerous, streets of “Pre-Katrina” New Orleans. Most of these kids lived “day to day” begging for food and money. Some lived in deplorable conditions near the popular French Quarter… unimaginable in the years before Katrina. Estiloz gained the trust of many of these kids… who allowed Estiloz to follow them, interview them and show their difficult life on the streets – an existence that some city administrators and business people in New Orleans frown upon. This is a uniquely candid and sad window into a homeless youth underclass in New Orleans that existed well before Katrina… and also still exists today. This story was written and produced by Tim Estiloz – who now reports on entertainment for CN8 – The Comcast Network.

Hosea Youth Services

Hosea Youth Services
Hosea Youth Services (HYS) . . . . . . brings together civic and faith based ministries committed to serving young people particularly the homeless and disenfranchised. HYS provides food, laundry, showers, clothing, and shelter. Referral and casework assistance includes finding work, housing, educational and medical resources. At Hosea we serve over 8,000 meals a year, provide 1,500 nights of shelter care and provide hundreds of street kids a place to shower, do laundry, obtain clothes, bus tokens, referral and just rest in a safe place. While there are success stories around jobs, housing, medical care and education we like to think every meal served and every night of hospitality is a success if done motivated by love and with joy. All of this is possible because of the generosity and time of volunteers and donors who actively contribute to make this possible.