Renee's Story: I Turned My Life Around at TLP

Renee, a young woman who graduated from TLP in 2018, states: “I was living in a dangerous situation. It was overwhelming. For my safety, I needed to get out.” Initially, Renee took refuge at friends’ homes but discovered they could only do so much to help. When she was unable to stay with friend’s, Renee would try for a shelter bed. She was sometimes shut-out though due to the lack of resources to meet the high demand for overnight services. She spent these nights walking around outside, just waiting for morning to come. “I was a senior in high school, wanting to go college, but there were days I couldn’t get to school. There was just no way. I was too far away. I didn’t have the money to get there. My grades started going down. I had been a straight-A student, so aside from everything else, this was also pretty devastating.” While at a shelter, Renee encountered an outreach worker from TLP who enrolled her in TLP’s housing program.

“My life totally turned around once I got to TLP. Just not having to worry about where I was going to sleep made a huge difference. People don’t realize how much it takes just to find food, let alone a place to brush your teeth when you’re homeless. I didn’t have a job, so I didn’t have money for these things. My TLP case manager pushed me and supported me with important goals. We got transportation so I could get to school again every day. She also helped me get a social security card. Now I’ve got a job!” Renee signed a lease for an apartment in Champaign-Urbana, where she began to further her studies. “I wanted to go to college because I know the importance of education,” she said. Although our TLP community was sad to see Renee leave, it was a comfort knowing that staff spent the day driving Renee to Champaign-Urbana and helped her unpack and get acclimated to her new living situation. We remain proud of Renee, who is now pursuing psychology and advertising through her studies. And she, in turn, continues with the knowledge that TLP is the family she can always come home to.

Gabby's Story: TLP Gave Me the Resources and Freedom I Needed to Work Toward my Goals

Coming to TLP from another program, Gabby found that living in Belfort House, TLP’s transitional living center, gave her the privacy, freedom, and structure that was lacking in the previous program. She states the best thing has been finding a case manager that genuinely cared about her and her goals and was supportive of the open adoption of her son, helping her structure her time to visit him.

During her time at TLP, Gabby has been actively employed, and recently secured a second opportunity with Chazle’s help. Gabby shared with us she already had a job, but needed another to get her closer to her goals. “Chazle’ is not just helping me, she’s helping everyone at Belfort House by making all these resources available and being willing to work with you and connect you to employers”, says Gabby. This second job has allowed her to be financially stable enough to be able to work towards getting her cosmetology license, bringing her goal of becoming a salon owner even closer to becoming a reality.

Gabby soon hopes to move into her own apartment with TLP. We will continue to stand with Gabby every step of the way, and can’t wait to be the first in line when she opens her salon.

John's Story: From Homelessness to Aspiring Athlete

John and his siblings were raised on the south side of Chicago by his grandmother. His grandmother was a part-time nurse who struggled to keep steady, living-wage employment and provide for the whole family.  By the time John was a teenager, he needed to leave home and find his own way to survive.  Like too many other young people in Chicago, John ended up homeless and living on the streets.

John created his own support system on the streets and heard about Teen Living Programs from a friend in a similar situation. He was grateful to move into Belfort House, where he finally had a roof over his head again and consistent meals. Despite not attending high school for the past two years, TLP staff were able to help John re-enroll in a local charter school.

Experiencing homelessness has not deterred John and his dreams.  He is earning excellent grades and has joined the high school’s basketball team.  As an aspiring athlete, John especially values the health services he receives at TLP, working on a nutrition plan and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Recently, John was honored with the Student Athlete of the Year award from his charter school, and his basketball team came in third place in the championship series.

David's Story: Working in the Music Studio Helped me Find the Real me

David was in his first semester at Kennedy-King College when trouble started brewing at home. He was fighting constantly with family and his anxiety prevented him from focusing on his college classes. David was eventually kicked out of home, but thankfully found a friend that would let him stay so he didn’t end up on the street.

Just as he was giving up hope, David found Teen Living Programs’ website online.  He was able to quickly move into Belfort House and started working with TLP staff to get his life back on track. He met with TLP’s part-time psychiatrist to learn how to manage his anxiety. He worked with the Youth Development Specialists to set ambitious goals for his future and organize his daily responsibilities. With the help of TLP’s Education Coordinator, David even re-enrolled in college and started attending classes.

Best of all, David blossomed in the Music Studio, a unique opportunity provided to TLP’s clients to use music and creativity to heal from the trauma of homelessness and build skills for the future. After awakening his love of music at TLP, David is majoring in Music Theory and hopes to one day become a music educator. David is already making beautiful music.

Jessica's Story: I Found all the Care and Support I was Missing

Imagine being 11 years old.  Now, imagine being 11 years old and losing your mother and your home all at the same time.  Jessica was only 11 years old when her mother passed away– a critical time at the start of adolescence when we all need love, guidance, and a strong support system.  Jessica stayed with various family members and friends for the next few years, but never had another real home or the consistent care of a supportive adult.

Jessica knew she needed something more, so she sought out the help of her school guidance counselor.  The counselor suggested Teen Living Programs, whose Outreach Team visits her school on a regular basis.  Jessica connected with the TLP Outreach Team and applied to move into Belfort House.  Through TLP, Jessica found what was missing – a caring and safe community where she could heal from her loss and access the supportive services she needed to stay healthy and strong.

Jessica successfully graduated from high school and is now enrolled in college.  She is employed as a TLP Peer Educator, helping other young people navigate their critical years and move from homelessness to hope.  She is about to graduate from TLP’s independent living program and into her own apartment.  With the support of TLP, she is prepared and ready to face her future.  Good luck Jessica!

Tania's Story: At TLP, I Learned How to Love Myself

Tania spent her critical high school years searching for who she was – and a steady place to sleep at night.  She bounced from couch to couch, family member to friend’s house, dreading the moment when she would be asked to leave.  She battled depression, abuse, and disappointment. Yet despite the instability and lack of emotional support, she remained on track to graduate and make it to college.

In her senior year, Tania took the courageous step of revealing her sexual orientation to her mother.  “Coming out to her was the hardest and scariest thing I ever did in my life.”  In response, her mother kicked her out for a final time and Tania ended up living on the streets, her college dream fading away.

One day, Tania found Teen Living Programs’ hotline phone number at the library. She moved into Belfort House, TLP’s transitional residence, and finally found the care and support she needed at this critical time in her life. She was quickly able to re-enroll in school and plans to pursue a college degree in culinary arts. Now she works as a TLP Peer Educator helping other young people strive for success and learn to love themselves. Tania is a survivor and a visionary, with the courage and determination to turn her life around.

Derek's Story: TLP is the Place I Call my First Home

Today, Derek lives in his own apartment through TLP’s independent living program.  He is studying to become an information technology professional.  He spends time with his young son and is proud to have found the stability he had been searching for.  Derek is finally home.

Derek was born to a teen mom who was not equipped to care for a third baby.  As a toddler, he was placed in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.  For seven long years, he bounced between foster homes, enduring abuse at the hands of strangers and longing for a family of his own.  After reuniting briefly with his stepfather, Derek became homeless at age 14 and lost all hope for a better life.

Derek credits his referral to Teen Living Programs as the start of his transformation: “a place I call my first home.”  He connected with the outreach team and eventually moved into Belfort House.  He worked side by side with his Youth Development Specialist to identify goals, learn how to live independently, and earn his GED.   At TLP, Derek’s vision for his own life was nurtured and encouraged, and with that support, he is becoming the man and father he always wanted to be.