Testimony before Congress
Living with my mom and my stepfather was difficult. My stepfather came home every night drunk and would beat my mom up. My brother and I didn’t sleep well wondering if we would be next.
At age 8 my parents finally divorced, my mom started drinking. She never laid a hand on my brother and I . Drinking was her way of forgetting the past.
I was sent with my stepfather and his wife at age 9 the abuse started soon afterwards, my brother soon came afterwards I was placed in foster and then very quickly and unbelievable back with my stepfather. Once back with my stepfather I started sending letters to my previous foster family from an abandoned house’s mailbox so my stepparents would know a month or so after the letters I built the courage to run. I contacted a previous foster family and they told me to look for a safe place instead of going back home.
I went to a library with a safe place sign on the front. I was 12 a the time and until that day had never heard of Safe Place but was glad there was a public place like the library where I could get help. They took me to the YMCA Safe Place shelter in Louisville. When I got to Safe Place, the staff welcomed me. I felt safe for the first time in many years. They did an intake, provided me with clothes, hygiene items and clean linens. The next morning had a warm breakfast and I met with a caseworker who changed my life forever, Mr. Bill.
When we talked, at first I had a hard time connecting with him, but it wasn’t long before I was sharing with him my life story. The shelter determined that going home it wasn’t going to be possible for me and I understood. Within 2 weeks they arranged for me to be placed in a foster home with a loving family.
But I still had problems and over the next several years and was placed in Psychiatric hospitals, and along with that came therapy and meds. Then came another foster home. Group home, even jail. Then I started using drugs and after witnessing my friend get shot in a deal gone bad, I thought “No body asked me what I wanted”– I felt like I was to blame and powerless to change my life. I had no family, no home and at this rate, no future.
After another failed foster home, I went to Safe Place again and asked for help. I knew the shelter was there for me. Again I felt safe and understood. I met with Miss Misty and told her everything I had been through. She didn’t judge me or laugh at me, she understood me and made me feel wanted.
The next day I met Mr. Kwan. A man with a story for every lesson he learned that I needed to learn or had already but in a rougher way. He too understood me. He has taught me very many ways to not let the little things blown way out of proportion.
And then there’s Mr. Bill. When I met with him after several years I gave him a hug. I felt so relieved to see someone I knew that really cared about me and loved me more than anyone I knew at the time …I will say that he’s been through a huge amount of things that other kids and myself could relate to.
Mr. Bill, Miss Misty, Mr. Kwan and the other wonderful agency staff at Safe Place services are keeping me drug and alcohol free. I cant remember the last time I felt this good about myself. To some, these people may just be ordinary people. But to me, and 600 other kids in Louisville, these people are heroes. Mr. Bill even gave up his vacation to bring me to DC so I could testify.
There are 14 kids at Safe Place services right now who have experienced many of the same things I have. I would like to be able to convince kids that Safe Place is a first step to getting help and the shelter is a place they can feel safe. And begin to solve their problems.
Many times when I was young I wanted to run for help, but when I was in an area where there weren’t many place to go. Louisville is a smaller city compared to here in DC, LA or even Atlanta. Kids all around the country, dozens of kids, feel like I did. No One understands them when they need a place to turn. I hope that they too will be able to find a safe place sites, get to a shelter, feel safe and have a bed a warm meal someone to talk to instead of roaming the street or bumming money.
I’m asking for your help to make a difference for kids just like me. Because every kid deserves a second chance. I plan to finish my GED, plan to go to college and get a degree in law enforcement.
Thank you for letting me share the experience I have had. I know I’m headed in the right direction. I used to ask always why me, maybe this is why, maybe what I’ve been through can make a difference to someone else. I hope you make it possible for kids like me to have these programs available.