By the time Tyler* was 17 years old, he was homeless and bounced around from house to house, staying with friends. His mother had abandoned him after moving to Texas, and he hadn't had contact with her for more than a month. He had dropped out of school and was working two jobs, hoping to save enough to afford his own apartment. However, due to his age, he was unable to sign a lease and eventually had nowhere to stay. He went to a Safe Place site (a QT gas station) late at night, hungry, tired and looking for help. He was brought to ACH's youth emergency shelter.
At first, he didn't like the structure and ran away a few days after arriving. However, about a week later, he showed back up on the shelter's doorstep because he realized he had nowhere else to turn. Over the course of several months, he worked with staff to get back in school and plan his future. He moved from the shelter to one of the homes on ACH's Wedgwood campus. ACH was then able to work with a partnering organization that located a pastor friend of Tyler's who lived in Oklahoma and wanted Tyler to come live with their family. Tyler was thrilled and eventually went to live in Oklahoma with the pastor's family. During our last visit with him, he was doing well, looking to finish high school and making plans for college.
Tyler is one of many homeless youth who find their way to ACH's youth emergency shelter. They all come from different circumstances--abandonment, abuse, running away, trafficking. But they all come to ACH for the same reason: a need to feel safe and cared for.
The shelter offers runaway, homeless and trafficked youth, ages 10 to 17 years, an immediate safe place to stay, and care and education while ACH works to reunite them with their families, or find safe and meaningful alternative living arrangments.
Some kids, like Tyler, come to the shelter through Safe Place, a locally-managed, national program designed to provide access to immediate help and safety to young people in trouble. Safe Place sites are developed in partnership with business and community locations that are easily accessible to youth. In Tarrant County, this critical community safety net makes it possible for youth to get help fast at locations that display the distinctive yellow and black Safe Place sign.
There is also 24-hour text-for-support service (TXT 4 HELP) for youth in crisis. Whether they are dealing with family issues, neglect, abuse, thoughts of suicide or running away--whatever it may be--they can text the word SAFE (7233) and their current location to 69866. Within seconds, they'll receive the address to the closest Safe Place location and the number for the local youth shelter.
November is National Runaway Prevention Month. Learn more here: http://www.1800runaway .org/runaway-prevention-month.
*Name changed due to privacy