The holidays are typically a time to focus on families and kids. But when you're a teenager, and your home isn't a positive -- or even safe -- place to be, you may end up running away or becoming homeless.
There's only one place they can turn to in Central Oregon for emergency shelter and transitional housing: Cascade Youth & Family Center. Also called The Loft, the building off Southwest Century Drive in Bend has beds for 14, plus partners with roughly 15 shelter homes to provide for youth and teens who need help.
CYFC wishes it didn't have to exist. But the fact is, there are some 900 homeless kids in Central Oregon, and every day, calls come pouring in from teens who need help -- like Kyle Holdsworth.
"(My parents) took away some of my personal belongings, and I was put in the garage to sleep on the cement," Holdsworth said of his upbringing.
He said he ran away from home more than 40 times, but didn't know what to do or where to go.
"For a while, I stayed with friends, I couch-surfed, I hung out around school," he added.
It's a story CYFC Program Manager Pat Gundy hears over and over again, and it's why he's so passionate about his work.
"We can't always prevent homelessness, but I think being a runaway is preventable," Gundy said. "And the way we do that is by building healthy families."
That's what CYFC/the Loft is all about. It offers emergency housing, mentoring, family mediation and case management, as well as practical help with everyday skills, like job hunting and learning to cook. It's all free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day.
It wasn't until a Family Access Network advocate at Holdsworth's school pointed him to CYFC that he found stability.
"When I got here, it was like magic. I knew this is the kind of place I want to be," he said.
"We've got some kids here whose goals range from just getting a job to going to college and everything in between. There's not one typical homeless teen here in the area," explained Spencer Newell, CYFC Business Development and Marketing Manager.
Regardless of their backgrounds and experiences, the teens who get housing, mentoring and build friendships at CYFC all need support.
"My parents had convinced me that college wasn't going to happen, and that I probably wouldn't graduate high school," Holdsworth said. "They had convinced me I was going to be one of the people on the side of the street holding a sign."
But that's not where Holdsworth is headed. He's proud to say he is a high school graduate, and plans to attend COCC to become an intervention case manager, to help teens like himself.
If you know someone under 18 who needs support, emergency housing, or other services, visit Cascade Youth & Family Center's website at http://www.jbarj.org/CYFC/, or call their 24-Hour Teen Crisis Hotline at 1-800-660-0934.
November is National Runaway Prevention Month, and although the month is winding down, you can switch out your porch-light to a green colored bulb to show your support throughout the season.