The transition from adolescence to adulthood can be hard, often filled with curveballs, hardship, and lessons learned. The young people we serve at YouthCare are on that same journey, going through the same trials and tribulations as their peers. But for young people experiencing homelessness, a traditional support system—parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents—isn’t always available, which can deepen the trauma.
Frankie, a young woman who radiates warmth, feels lucky to have had that caring support from her dad. Frankie’s dad raised her, and they were inseparable. When he suddenly passed away two years ago, Frankie didn’t know how she would survive. With no family or relatives to take her in, her world flipped upside down, and she sank into a depression. She bounced from home to home, losing trust she’d ever gain stability.
One Friday afternoon, Frankie sat at a park bench outside of school. She was turning eighteen in two days. As her head swirled with worries about where she was going to live, she remembered something her dad would tell her when she was little.
“Don’t ever give up,” said Frankie. “If dad were here, he would tell me that.”
Those words encouraged her to seek help from her school counselor, who gave her the number for YouthCare. Frankie met with Noel, a YouthCare case manager, who helped her find housing at Catalyst, one of YouthCare’s community living programs.
Catalyst provided a pathway back to stability. Frankie was thankful to have a routine: chores after dinner, weekly game nights, and check-ins with a mental health therapist every Thurs- day. Frankie grew to appreciate those Thursdays the most.
All too often, the young people we meet have endured profound loss and are struggling with their mental health. A recent study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago found that 35% of young people experiencing homelessness have lost a parent or guardian. But asking for help can be hard. The stigma of being both homeless and needing mental health care can be a barrier for youth in getting the services they need.
At Catalyst, Frankie received consistent, caring support and found additional resources for her mental health care. Outside of her Thursday appointments, she participated in weekly homework assignments focused on wellness and goal-setting for the future.
Staff marveled at Frankie’s positive changes with each passing day. She earned her GED, and it wasn’t long before she began searching for her first job. She wanted to save up for an apartment so she could have a space to call her own. With help from Noel, Frankie applied for a handful of positions— she crossed her fingers for a job in health or fitness, a budding passion. Frankie jumped up and down with excitement when she received a call back to interview for a front desk position at a local gym!
A few days before her interview, staff helped Frankie find clothes at YouthCare’s Basement Boutique, a shop where young people can access clothing, shoes, and other necessities. Dressed in emerald green, her dad’s favorite color, Frankie entered her interview with confidence. Noel beamed when Frankie received a second call later that day with news that she got the job.
“I think my dad would have been proud,” Frankie said. “He always cheered me on.”
Too many young people come to YouthCare with their own version of Frankie’s story. Each of them deserves a pathway back to stability: a stable home, consistent support, and access to therapeutic services necessary to heal. Like Frankie, they can imagine new possibilities and change the course of their own story through encouragement and healing.