managed to tuck a head full of curls behind her ears.
She was 20 years old and had just started classes at a
Community College. After
confiding that she was homeless to one of her
teachers, she was referred to Youth Continuum’s
Homeless Outreach Program.
Terry sat down with a counselor and told her story:
At the age of 14, Gram was diagnosed with a terminal cancer and passed away quickly. She was the backbone of the family and took care of Terry and her mom, who suffered from severe depression.
Soon after Gram passed, Terry and her mother moved from shelter to shelter while Terry continued to attend high school. After a few weeks of living in shelters, Terry was abandoned by her mother and left to her aunts care. Just before her 15th birthday, Terry’s mother voluntarily gave up parental rights, and was never to be seen again.
After a few months of living with her aunt, Terry’s hopeful situation was shattered by intense physical abuse. The trauma lead to her first suicide attempt, a short term in a mental hospital for children and eventual release back to other family members. For thenext several years, Terry was able to live between friends, neighbors and distant relatives, but each residence was short lived and a few had resulted in violence against her.
After 11 homeless shelters, two transitional living programs and countless couches of friends and relatives, Terry was now at our doorstep for the first time. If you met Terry that day, you would have no idea that she had been living homeless for six years. Unfortunately, many of our youth live homeless for several years before seeking help at Youth Continuum, all of whom are very skilled at hiding their state of homelessness.
Terry was able to find housing at Umoja House, and was outfitted with clothes and hygiene products right away. She continues to speak to the counselor at MacMullen Center to help her with the transition out of homelessness. Today she no longer has to worry about meals or residing with an abuser. Instead, Terry can focus on the simple things in life like going to school, working, doing laundry, learning to cook and spending time with people who, above all, care about her well being.
Transitions are difficult for everyone. But when you are a young man carrying the burden of early childhood neglect and trauma, while managing serious mental health issues, transitions are anything but easy.
Sean was frustrated and disappointed when he ‘aged-out’ of his previous group home before coming to Helen’s House at age 19. He was guarded and uncooperative, rigid in his ways as any teenager would be, and mistrusting of the new adults in his life. The staff at Helen’s House understood all of this, approaching Sean’s transition as unobtrusively as possible and letting him decide when the time was right to trust and rely on the staff for the first time.
As time passed, Sean came out of his shell and took a dramatic turn in his outlook and behavior. He began to take ownership of his personal and mental health needs, contributing to a significant reduction in medication. His smile became infectious around the house and his demeanor was that of a confident and successful young man. The word proud doesn’t do justice to the feelings of the staff during these early months with Sequan. He took one of the greatest leaps from reclusive to proactive that the staff at Helen’s House had ever seen.
Sean’s achievements followed him outside of Helen’s House where he received continuous praise from teachers at North Haven High School for his positive attitude, willingness to help his peers and dedication to his studies. Dubbed “The Mayor” of NHHS, Sean eventually graduated and moved on to the Step Forward Program at Gateway Community College. There he found his niche as a mentor to children at a local elementary school, tutoring and engaging children in play activities for four days each week.
Upon completion of the one year program at Gateway, Sean turned 21 and was ready for discharge from DCF. Today he lives with a roommate in an apartment and continues to work at a summer camp each year, not too far from Helen’s House.
Every so often, Sean comes back to visit the Helen’s House staff. He is, after all, family to everyone at Youth Continuum and in the North Haven community.
Kabir's Story All of the youth that come to live with us have a difficult
past. Kabir's story is no different, but tragically compounded
by a life in an orphanage, and a failed adoption that completely
removed him from his home, half way across the world in India.
Kabir's adjustment to Forbes House was difficult. He had to
hurdle a language barrier and a cultural barrier that was
seemingly impossible to overcome. The staff at Forbes walked beside him through each challenge and encouraged him to attend the MacMullen Center, where he found a sense of belonging. Kabir was able to sit with a private tutor every day at MacMullen to translate and excel in his school work. He also joined a crew of youth at MacMullen Center to build a house from start to finish. Nearly every Saturday morning for 6 months straight, Kabir and his peers went to work hanging sheet rock, installing floors, raising walls and landscaping.
Today Kabir has found acceptance through a new group of friends and through Forbes House—a place he has called home for the past three years. His adjustment has been extraordinary, which is to be expected from the extraordinary young man he has proven himself to be.
While growing up, Anthony was always in danger.
His father had left home, and his mother was
addicted to drugs. With her addiction came a
succession of men and of abuse. He never knew
when it would happen, and he was powerless.
Over the years Anthony’s rage kept building.
On a bus one day when he was 14, he recognized
the first man who had abused him back when he
was seven. And he snapped. He attacked the man and was arrested.
It was a turning point for Anthony. Two years in residential treatment programs helped him to focus on his strengths, which were many. When he came to Uno House, he finally had a real home; and this time it was safe. He enrolled in high school and reveled in being a normal kid going to classes and to football practice after school. He took courses in culinary arts and loved them. At Uno House he cooked for special occasions to rave reviews. He made the honor role in school. At 18, when he was free to leave, Anthony decided to stay at Uno House instead and to apply to college. Just like in a normal family.
He then attended a well-known Culinary School. While he’s starting to develop a good relationship with his father and will live with him, he’s promised to come back to Uno House regularly to show off his culinary skills.