Cathy Wells could still feel the stinging from eye surgery as she drove across Saginaw, Mich. to help one of her clients secure his first apartment.
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The 41-year-old life-skills coach at Holy Cross had been working with the teenager for nearly a year, trying to help him integrate back into school, while finding him a safe living space. On this day, though, she had just found out her client had not followed up with his tenant application and he was about to lose his chance at a new home.
Going above and beyond for youth
So, with a dark pair of sunglasses to shade some of the pain from the sunshine, Wells drove through Saginaw to make it on time. Her client had keys to his new home that day.Wells works with a rotating group of about eight teenage boys at Holland House, one of many youth programs operated by Holy Cross Services. Some of the boys suffer from neglect and abandonment, while others have endured severe physical and mental abuse.
“I want to be a voice for these children because it’s very sad knowing they have experienced that kind of abuse,” Wells said. “It’s too bad they didn’t have this when they first needed it.”
Full support for youth
The impact of this type of lifestyle is severely challenging to overcome, she explained. That’s why Holland House, located just west of Saginaw in Thomas Township, offers round-the-clock support staff who provide wide ranging services.In addition to food and shelter, the residents have access to therapy, life-skills training and employment programs—anything they need to help them transition to independent lifestyle.
Each resident has his own specific program catering to his needs, Wells explained. The goal is to get them back in school or land them a job, and then get them into their own homes.
Learning basic skills
The kids, who range in age from 16 to 19, typically stay for nine months until they establish stable housing and either find work or go back to school. In addition to the support programs, people like Wells also help the boys learn even the most basic skills, like cooking, cleaning and laundry.“We look at the different options to make sure the boys become successful,” she said. “We’re teaching them to be independent, successful youth.”
Of course, sometimes the kids struggle. They fall back into old habits. Handling chores may be too much of a burden one day, Wells explained. On other days, doing the things necessary to find an apartment may be too much to handle.
“It’s pretty difficult when they have their setbacks,” Wells said. “You kind of take it personally, as if you’ve had a setback too. It’s all about understanding what’s happened in their lives and understanding their frame of mind. It’s trying to get them to think a different way about life in general.”