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.