November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month.

Brandon's Story“I’ve only had two or three stable living situations in my entire life,” Brandon shares. Growing up in the custody of the Indiana Department of Child Services, Brandon never grasped a sense of “home”. Starting when he was only six years old, Brandon lived in three different foster homes during his childhood. “It was abusive; it wasn’t family. That’s when I really understood what living in poverty was like,” says Brandon.

After an 18-month court battle, Brandon’s father regained custody of him and his younger brother, Matthew. Looking to start somewhere new, the three of them moved to Arizona. Brandon was hopeful that there would be a chance for his family to live together in harmony. But he quickly realized that the transition into a new place did not mean a transition into a new life. They needed somewhere to live: a shelter, a hotel, a friend’s place… anywhere. Unable to secure a safe place to stay, they went to a local QuikTrip and called Safe Place, a national outreach and prevention program for youth in crisis situations. It wasn’t long until staff from UMOM’s Open Hands Shelter arrived to take Brandon and Matthew somewhere safe.

UMOM’s Open Hands is an emergency shelter that provides a safe, home-like setting for youth between the ages of 12 and 17 years old, who are experiencing homelessness, family conflict or abuse. Each year, approximately 200 youth seek emergency shelter at Open Hands. Nearly all who complete the program exit to safe, permanent housing.

Transitioning into a new life wasn’t easy. Even though Brandon’s dad was able to find an apartment for them to live in, he wasn’t working due to a physical disability. Because of this, the responsibility of maintaining the household, buying groceries, and paying monthly rent and bills fell on Brandon. Enrolled in Advanced Placement high school courses, Brandon already had more than enough on his plate. Now, he needed to prioritize earning income through a part-time job, too. At 16 years old, Brandon’s role in his family went from being a dependent child to the responsible adult.

Realizing he needed to focus on taking care of himself, Brandon moved into UMOM’s transitional living program for youth. Here, he has been able to focus on his studies at Arizona School for the Arts; he’s passionate about music. “People at my school don’t even know that I’ve been homeless,” Brandon shares, “They know me for who I am, not where I’ve lived.” UMOM provides more than a safe place to stay, it provides hope. Brandon has been able to create his own routine and return to a sense of normalcy; meeting other young people, making friends and living in community – something he may not have had the opportunity to experience otherwise. Brandon is already making plans for college, graduate school, and beyond.

Because of you, teens are able to break free from cyclical homelessness. $148 provides a teen with meals and a safe place to sleep for 1 day.

Can we count on you to provide 1 night, 3 nights, or maybe 5 nights of a safe place to sleep for teens like Brandon?