- What do you see as one or two of the greatest challenges to helping the homeless and the hungry in North Texas?
The greatest challenges of helping homeless youth is raising awareness of the reality of its existence in an affluent area like Collin County, and the much-needed donations it takes to operate our emergency shelter and Transitional Living Program (TLP).
Homelessness has risen 112 percent in Dallas suburbs over the last 10 years and with more and more people moving into the area, the problem unfortunately is not going away. People in North Texas do care and are very giving, and the more that get educated on the issue, the more resources can be secured in making a difference in these young peoples’ lives. The second part of the challenge is getting past the stereotypes; most are good kids who left an unstable home life and simply need some direction and help.
- How would you describe your mission, and how are you specifically helping the homeless and the hungry?
City House’s mission is to Protect Youth, Empower Change, and Transform Lives, working with at-risk youth due to abuse, neglect or homelessness. Our emergency shelter works closely with Child Protective Services and kids who have been removed from their homes, as well as runaways, with the goal of getting them back home or in foster care as soon as possible. Our TLP program serves homeless young adults, ages 18-21. We own several homes in both Plano and Frisco, where we give them room and board, as well as help and counsel them toward their goals, teaching them how to stand on their own two feet.
- Can you give us an example of a person (named or unnamed) who has benefited from your services? How have they benefited? If it’s appropriate, tell us a short story.
As Lexii was growing up in Murphy, her parents were in a custody battle and constantly going at it. So she decided to leave home at 17.
“When you’re a kid, you can’t leave,” she said, “but I felt I had to. I completely dropped out of school, I just stopped as I was entering my senior year.”
Lexii quickly realized she needed to finish high school, had heard about City House and figured it was worth a try. She joined the Transitional Living Program and started working toward her GED.
“I got a job and I was working with a City House tutor for math, which has always given me trouble,” she said. “I was in the program for about six or seven months, then decided to return to school and finish all my classes and get the real thing after I left.”
Now Lexii is married and her husband is going to school. She’s got a job and just bought a new car. Her husband is in the Navy and they will be moving to Florida in April, where he will be stationed. She’s doing well, and credits much of that to what she learned at City House.
“I learned to be responsible, for once,” she said. “City House helped me grow up a lot. I embraced the program — it taught me how to adapt to change and deal with situations. It was a good balance in the staff helping us while we had a lot of independence to learn to help ourselves, too. I think it’s a really good to have someone to fall back on, but it teaches us to help ourselves first.”
Lexii thinks City House is a good option for teens who need a place to turn.
“I would recommend City House to any teen that needed help,” she said. “I’d tell them to get in the right mindset and be prepared to help yourself. City House provides so much and the rules of the program are like any other home. It’s different when you get in it; you may have to adjust to following the rules, but you learn from them. I told one of my friends they should come here. It did a lot for me.”
- Is there anything new that you are focused on for the coming year? Any new initiatives?
City House is very focused on increasing efforts with the outreach program, talking more and more with school administrators and counselors in an effort to reach more kids. The goal is to get to the family-conflict problems early before they turn into teen-homeless situations. We’re talking with both students and parents who are dealing with issues at home and working with them to find a solution. Stopping homelessness before it happens is a top priority as we continue to grow.
- What else should North Texas residents know about your work?
North Texas residents need to understand that the reality of youth homelessness exists, even in affluent areas. So many are still surprised at the numbers reported by the school districts and never even had a thought that places like City House are needed to help. The unfortunate part is that it is not going away; as the population continues to rise, so will youth homelessness. Family conflict exists in every household in America, and too often that leads to a teen leaving or getting kicked out. It takes a community to make a difference and the more people know, the more avenues we have to help.