As teens and young adults prepare for spring graduations, we are celebrating a very special young person and his graduation from Friends of Youth. Here is Tyler’s story.
When Tyler first came to Friends of Youth, he had been couch surfing for years while trying both to graduate from Mount Si High School and to look for work. After he lost his access to friends’ couches, he tried sleeping in a tent in the woods. But when it got too cold, he got on a bus and headed for Bellevue and Friends of Youth’s emergency shelter for young adults, The Landing. Without the help he found at The Landing, Tyler would have had no other option but to remain in the woods, cold and hungry.
Instead, he found a welcoming staff, warm meals cooked by volunteers, and a safe place to sleep and recover from the stress of being homeless before talking to counselors about the full range of housing, treatment and employment programs offered at Friends of Youth.
Born in Seattle, Tyler’s family moved to Illinois, where he spent most of his childhood. But after his father died, his mother left her twin sons with their grandmother. Eventually, that got to be too much for her, and Tyler and his brother moved back to Washington state to live with their mother in North Bend. Tyler and his brother were 17 years old and attending Mount Si High School when they were kicked out of the house. He still is not sure what happened.
A friend and his single mother took Tyler in and let him sleep on a couch while he finished high school. That proved to be difficult while his life was so unstable, and many times he thought about quitting school. But he persevered, keeping up with vocational classes he enjoyed so much.
“It was one of my dad’s wishes that we should graduate from high school,” Tyler said, and he is very proud of that diploma and how it honors the memory of his father.
After high school, Tyler tried to find a job, but with little work experience and few entry-level job openings during the recession, he didn’t have much luck. Facing touch financial times, his friends were not able to continue providing a place for him. He tried camping in the woods for a while, but that experience convinced him to try a resource he had learned about from a counselor in Snoqualmie.
At The Landing, Friends of Youth staff helped Tyler sort out his needs. They were able to find him a space in one of the non-profit organization’s 80-plus housing units, New Ground Kirkland, for single adults ages 18-21. Through supportive case management services at New Ground, Tyler found a job and started work in September 2012 at Little Caesar’s pizza restaurant in Bellevue. He proved to be such a diligent worker that within a month, he was promoted to a managerial position there.
“I make sure everything is being expedited properly and make sure no old pizzas go out. They have to be fresh,” Tyler said. “I also resolve complaints and issues when a customer has a problem.”
At age 22, Tyler has just “graduated” from Friends of Youth programs. His “diploma” is the satisfaction of moving into his own apartment. Tyler now is sharing a three-bedroom place in Everett with his older brother and his brother’s girlfriend. The commute on the bus to his job is going to be long, but he has arranged to split his work schedule with the store in Mill Creek, which comes with a much shorter commute.
“It feels amazing to have a place of my own,” Tyler said, when less than a year ago he was homeless. “It’s a lot of paperwork you have to go through, though, to get an apartment,” and that is what makes the assistance of Friends of Youth programs so valuable in helping young people achieve self-sufficiency.
At the same time, he is concerned about his twin brother, who didn’t choose to get help from Friends of Youth and still sleeps in his car in North Bend.
For Tyler, the guidance and encouragement he found at Friends of Youth made all the difference. “Honestly, I don’t think I would have made it this far without getting help from Friends of Youth.”
More information about how to support Friends of Youth’s shelters and transitional housing programs is available at http://www.friendsofyouth.org/giveNonCashItems.aspx and at http://www.friendsofyouth.org/donateNow.aspx.