About The HouseHow We Got Here
How We Got Started
About The House: Karis, Inc., was created after our founder recognized there was a need to help youth experiencing homelessness in Mesa County. Since it began The House has helped over hundreds of homeless youth.
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It was a sunny day at the Sinclair station.
John Mok-Lamme was filling his car one day in the spring of 2007 when he heard a familiar voice calling to him.
“John! How’s that church coming?” asked Darin Carei, Mok-Lamme’s friend, from another pump.
“Pretty good,” replied Mok-Lamme. “We’re still trying to get it up and running.”
Mok-Lamme and Carei knew each other from St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, where they had both attended before Mok-Lamme began putting together a new church in Grand Junction with a few of his friends.
“Well, I’ll commit two thousand dollars to it,” said Carei.
Mok-Lamme was stunned.
“That commitment,” Mok-Lamme would say later, “in essence cemented my relationship with Darin.”
Carei, who is the President of Energywise Companies in Grand Junction, committed his contribution, and the two walked away that day locked into a friendship that would take them into places they never thought they’d go.
In the months to come, Mok-Lamme and Carei dived into projects throughout the Grand Valley. Both had served time on the board of the Homeward Bound homeless shelter, Carei as Board President and Mok-Lamme as Executive Director. Now, joining forces with Mok-Lamme’s church and Carei’s “The Faith Foundation,” the two were able to oversee the beginning of a trailer park for homeless families in the Candlewood neighborhoods of Clifton. Volunteers from the church would use money from The Faith Foundation to buy and rehab the mobile homes, and one man from the church, Todd Capps, bought used mobile homes to bring to the Candlewood community while Kathy, his wife, case-managed each home.
Sojourner’s and Faith Foundation continued on in Candlewood for about three years, until it was decided to dissolve the Faith Foundation.
“There’s a law that says if you run a public foundation, you can only put so much of your own money in it,” said Mok-Lamme. “After that, it’s a private foundation. So Darin had put all of his own money in it and he hadn’t done any fundraising.”
David Scanga, an attorney with Hoskin, Farina, & Kampf, recommended that the titles of the mobile homes be switched to the church. Sojourner’s would now support the mobile home effort at Candlewood.
“Darin, the chaos is over,” Mok-Lamme had told Carei. “This is going to work.”
“Oh,” replied Carei. “Well, we should go look for some new chaos.”
It didn’t take long to find some.
The Faith Foundation used to give away money to people in need, so with the new arrangement under the church, those calls now came to Mok-Lamme, and one day a lady called him.
“I’m dying of cancer,” she began, “and I’m unable to pay my rent, and now I’m being kicked out of the Asset House.”
“The Asset House,” said Mok-Lamme, “what’s that?”
“It’s a non-profit,” the lady answered.
“Well, no non-profit would kick you out if you’re dying of cancer.”
“I know, but it’s true; they’re kicking me out.”
“I’ll make you a deal. If you can fax me something that says you’re dying of cancer, that you’re really that sick, and that they’re kicking you out, we’ll pay your rent for a while.”
Mok-Lamme went to the Asset House and discovered all this was true. The details were worked out for her rent to be paid, but before Mok-Lamme left, he was told that the Asset House was up for sale.
He ran out to the curb right away and grabbed his phone.
“Darin, you’ve got to come see this place,” he said. “I’ve found our new chaos.”
Erica sat uneasily in the seat. She strapped her seatbelt on and looked anxiously at her mother, sitting in the seat next to her.
“I thought it was the most scariest ride,” said Erica. “I think it was called the Mind Erasure or something like that. It was one of those rides where the tracks are above your head and your feet are hanging off the ground.”
This was Erica’s first time at Six Flags. She was only ten at the time, scared out of her mind.
“But she was next to me,” said Erica, about her mother, “and we were all screaming because of how fast everything was. That was a fun ride because I thought I was going to fall out of it.”
Before the ride started, Erica locked her wide eyes onto her mother, who responded with a smile.
“I was so scared, but she told me it was going to be alright,” said Erica. “And it was. It was the most fun I ever had with my mother.”
In the spring of 2009, Mok-Lamme and Carei started a non-profit organization called Karis (meaning “grace,” in Greek), incorporated to run the “chaos.” There were nine Candlewood mobile homes as well as the Asset House that needed funding and management. Karis became the entity who was loaned the money to purchase the Asset House, and so Karis was incorporated on the same day Asset House was acquired.
“The idea behind Karis was just another avenue to help families that needed assistance either with housing or with keeping a stable environment in the home,” said Erin Ginter, owner of United Country Real Estate and one of Karis’ original board members. “It was focused around housing initially, so that was the main thrust.”
“Karis was really focused on trying to do things that other people were already doing,” said Mok-Lamme. “But we were just trying to do them differently, in a way that reflected our values; things like thrift, community, and evaluation.”
And so, with Mok-Lamme as Executive Director and Carei as Board President, Karis began its journey of meeting the needs of homeless families at Candlewood and homeless, single adults at Asset House. The journey only lasted a few months before things began to take a dramatic turn.
That August, leaders of the community held a “Winter Summit” to address homelessness in the Grand Valley. Representatives from entities such as Catholic Outreach, The Housing Authority, and Housing Resources of Western Colorado attended to address the needs in the community.
“People from Housing First, No More Death had raised concerns that people were being left out,” said Mok-Lamme, “that there were homeless people who weren’t being served. So everyone was meeting with this question of, well, where are the gaps? Who’s not being served?”
At the Summit, findings from a survey done in 2009 by the Homeless Coalition were presented, detailing the homeless populations of the Grand Valley.
“In that survey, it was identified that youth was a huge issue,” said Cathy Haller, Prevention Services Coordinator for District 51, and Karis board member.
“It was then,” said Carei, “ that we all realized that one of the identified gaps to be filled was the homeless teen population that had nowhere to go.”
“Hardly anyone in the community knew anything about a homeless teen population,” said Mok-Lamme. “This population was really underground; they don’t really hang out in parks or hold cardboard signs.”
Attendees of the Summit broke out into focus groups, one of which being teen homelessness.
“From being the Board President at Homeward Bound and knowing the policies and procedures,” said Carei, “I knew that they were unable to attend there overnight unaccompanied by a parental unit or guardian. So I was aware of that, but I was not aware that there was no viable alternative.”
The reality for those present was undeniable.
“These kids are homeless,” said Angie Wickersham, Assistant Director of Admissions and Clinical Services for the Life Adjustment Program at Hilltop. “And the primary need for all of them? A place to live. A consistent bed to sleep in, instead of couch-surfing on some yucky dude’s pull-out, trading sex for drugs. I mean, it sounds dramatic to say that, but kids make that choice in our community.”
“This would just be part of a continuum of services that people need from the get-go,” said Kathy Capps, the Program Director of Crisis Intervention Services for Colorado West Regional Mental Health, who was also Karis’ Case Manager at Candlewood. “The biggest indicator if somebody is going to be homeless as an adult is if they were homeless as a child. There are a lot of points of intervention; can we help them as teenagers and hope that they don’t become homeless adults?”
The finding at the Summit sent ripples into everyone present, and for several months afterward, members of the Summit met weekly to discuss possible options. Tinker Barnett, POSITION, began coming and helped write a business plan for doing it through a local shelter.
“In the spring of 2010, the spring after the Winter Summit,” said Mok-Lamme, “I brought it before the Karis board, saying, ‘Somebody’s got to take the lead on this.’”
The Karis board spent the next six months talking about taking it on.
“Because at that point,” said Ginter, “we weren’t even financially sound enough with our other programs, and so we were like, okay, now we’re taking on this program? We really had to think about how we were going to do this. It’s not going to be easy, but just because it’s not going to be easy was no reason to not do it. The need was huge; I think at that time they were thinking there were over five hundred homeless teens in the community.”
The board was not without other examples to draw from, however. From 2003-2004, there was another teen shelter called “Tree House” that helped approximately 120 teens during its 15 months of service before running out of funds.
“A woman who had been involved in the Tree House came forward a few months after the Summit,” said Mok-Lamme. “And she said that you couldn’t do it underground, such as through a church. The only way you could do it was through a licensed shelter.”
“But by that point,” said Haller, “Karis had already agreed to take that on as their mission.”
“It seemed like a pretty big gap that we could fill with a little bit of effort,” said Carei. “The population was out there. And we were small enough and cocky enough to think that we could take it on.”
“What’s weird is I have the date in my mind when my mother died,” said Erica. She is sitting on the couch with her hands folded, looking down. Her voice is soft, and her speech is slow and precise; no word spoken is an accident.
“She died April 22, 2003, actually,” she continued. “I always thought she’d be alive for mine and my brother’s graduations. But the effects of smoking and drinking a lot have very adverse effects. Effects I never thought were possible, actually.”
Erica is a tall girl, about six feet, and an imposing figure, not your typical computer expert. Her plan is to join the Air Force as a computer programmer as soon as she loses enough weight.
“I always thought people died of old age or something. I didn’t think it was a big deal that she would drink and smoke so much.”
Erica is now 20 years old, which means she was about eleven when her mother died, about a year after the two rode the Mind Erasure.
“I miss her a lot. I wish I could have done something to prevent her from going.” Here she pauses, really considers her words. “But back then I didn’t know any of the effects of drinking or smoking. I actually still picture her and my dad living together.”
The goal was simple: raise $25,000 for the initial campaign. This would cover website, printed materials, salaries, and media. Karis soon sent out letters, and articles appeared in The Sentinel trying to bring attention to the need for a teen homeless shelter.
“We eventually got a couple contributions,” said Mok-Lamme. “but other than that nothing happened. That summer we hardly got any money.”
By the beginning of the fall of 2010, only a few thousand dollars had been raised. Work at Candlewood and the Asset House continued to accrue needs, and Karis began to run into trouble as an organization.
“We were running out of money,” said Mok-Lamme. “It was really clear to the board that they were going to have to make contributions to keep Karis alive. There was no way we were going to be able to use money for the teen shelter.”
“At time we were thinking, should we wash our hands of this?” said Capps, who would become a Karis board member. “It was a constant question. It’s draining all this time and energy and we’ve got two other projects; do we need to be doing this? We were looking at the budget sheets and seeing that we didn’t carry enough financial structure to carry this for very long, and you don’t want to start something and have it fail. We were asking that question every month.”
By the end of November, answers were getting harder to come by.
“There was a board meeting where we discussed whether we were going to be able to do this or not,” said Scanga, the attorney, who also became a Karis board member. “I thought it was a long shot. I didn’t think it could happen.”
“In that meeting, we almost voted to close the teen shelter down,” said Mok-Lamme. “I remember thinking, man, I’ve put these people in a tough place: if we vote to keep this thing going, we risk the solvency of the organization; but if we vote no, to give up the effort, then we’re leaving homeless teens in the lurch.”
“Money. We just needed money,” said Scanga. “But John came to us in that meeting saying, ‘I know how we can make money, I know how we can do this; just stick with me.’ It was his passion, his vision, him pushing the board, him convincing us that we could push this forward, that kept this together.”
The board played their hand, and as the bleak winter began to settle in, they voted to commit to the shelter.
“I don’t think there was ever enough to tell us that we needed to wash our hands of this,” said Capps. “There was always enough to tell us we needed to keep going. We continued to hear stories of kids who were putting themselves in really dangerous positions, sleeping in inappropriate places. And other organizations slowly recognized us as being the people who were going to get this done.”
Karis pressed on, beginning media campaigns and fundraising in January of 2011, with the goal of opening in the spring of 2012.
“Our goal was to have a year’s worth of operating expenses, which was about $100,000,” said Haller, “so that we could open knowing that we could sustain through a full year, because the timing would take us through to the best fundraising time, the holidays.”
The board entered the New Year with new energy – and a new name for the shelter: The House.
“One of the biggest questions we started asking,” said Ginter, “was that if this is such a big community need, where’s the community? Why don’t we have more people involved?”
With these questions in mind, Karis began to shift their focus and energy onto the community around them. They developed a model whereby at least 1,000 people (or “Guardians”) would give $100 or more per year in support of The House. Figures such as Angie Wickersham, who had worked as Coordinator of the Family and Adolescent Partnership with The Adolescent Cooperative at the time, began to plant teen shelter seeds throughout other youth-based organizations, and media became the centerpiece.
“Russ Schuckmann, the professional fundraiser of the year for the state of Colorado, came on board, and the two of us went to Dave Beck at the radio station and told them about this Guardian idea,” said Mok-Lamme. “The idea was to get a lot of media, and I remember thinking in that meeting, gosh, if Dave Beck says no, we’re dead. Nobody even knew who we were; people couldn’t even say our name. We needed a media presence to ask for Guardians.”
Beck is the General Manager and Director of Sales for Maranatha Broadcasting Company (MBC Grand) and jumped headlong into the project.
“When this project was presented before us,” said Beck, “we developed a real passion for it and thought, you know, we can make a real difference here.”
Beck and MBC Grand would donate over $100,000 of advertising time to Karis in the year and a half to come, and in early April, Karis kicked off this monstrous advertising campaign with an opening ceremony at Long’s Park. The atmosphere was thick with excitement, and that day advertisements for The House began to play on all eight of MBC Grand’s radio stations.
But that night, only two people signed up to be Guardians.
“I remember thinking, oh my gosh, this is not going to happen,” said Mok-Lamme. “We are in a lot of trouble here. I thought we’d get a much bigger response out of that.”
“We had thought because this community is really supportive of youth that the minute we had put it out there that we would get those 1,000 guardians just like that,” said Haller. “But it just dragged and dragged.”
“That was probably a sign of people not being aware of the problem,” said Beck. “I think people made the assumption that it’s not that many kids or that there are a lot of places for them to go, so why do they need one more? And of course, none of that was true.”
And MBC Grand didn’t let up.
“There’s no way to overstate it: without MBC Grand we just wouldn’t have gotten anywhere,” said Mok-Lamme. “They were the only people that weren’t surprised. They just kept talking about it and talking about it.”
So MBC Grand kept talking, and Karis kept pressing on, speaking at events and fundraisers and at foundations whenever they could. But progress remained slow, and by the fall of 2011 they had raised $50,000 – only half of what they needed to open by the spring. The slow progress continued into November, when board members began to make suggestions of selling units at Candlewood to continue going. That’s when Mok-Lamme approached his old friend.
“I went to Darin Carei and said, look, I think we’re going to do okay here and here; I think we could get this done with another $20,000.”
“Alright,” replied Carei, “I’ll give you $10,000 to match, but we have to be open by March.”
After that, things began to “blow up.”
“It was about $50,000 that we needed to raise between Thanksgiving and the end of the year in order to have enough to open that spring,” said Haller. “And in less than two months we made more than we had in the previous eight.”
After the dust of about a month of radio and TV advertisements had settled, over $25,000 had been raised. Still about $25,000 more to go.
One day, Mok-Lamme spoke at a gathering of professional CPAs and attorneys. He must have made an impression, because the next day one of the CPAs approached Karis. One of his clients had decided to make an anonymous donation. And the amount?
“Twenty-five thousand dollars,” said Ginter, with a smile and shake of her head. “Wow. We just needed to get to this mark, and here someone just hands us $25,000.”
And with that, by January 2012, Karis had all the funds needed to advertise positions for the program.
In Arizona, her dad couldn’t stand the heat.
In Oregon, he couldn’t stand the floods.
Erica has spent the last 7 years moving between different towns of her dad’s choosing, mostly because her dad couldn’t find a place that suited him.
“They all had problems that he just couldn’t stand,” said Erica.
Her brother, 24, works in Breckenridge, and her dad is still in Gunnison, but is looking to move to Hawaii soon. “He can’t stand the snow anymore,” Erica says.
“I’ve been trying to contact him for the last two months,” said Erica, “but I haven’t gotten an answer from him. The last time I saw him was December of 2010. So almost two years. Back in Gunnison.”
Before coming to Grand Junction this fall, Erica lived in Rifle for two years working for Job Corps. Since she started the job, she has not seen her dad.
“At Job Corps, students are given two weeks over the holidays so they can go visit their families,” she said. “But dad doesn’t allow that, actually. He got it into his head that I wouldn’t want to go back to Job Corps. He really didn’t have a problem with me working there, actually. It was his way of getting rid of me.”
Despite this, Erica still tries to get in contact with him.
“It kind of put a fatal blow to my heart, actually, hearing him say that I couldn’t go home, that I couldn’t see him,” she said. “He said that he would come up and see me if I asked him. When I did ask him, he asked, ‘Is it important?’ I said, ‘When does it have to be important?’ I asked him to come to my graduation at Job Corps. He said he wasn’t going to come.”
Mike Bambino, from Dare to Car-e Auto Repair, ran a fundraiser in September of 2011 totaling over $10,000.
The Lions Club raised $1,500 for refrigeration.
The I.S. Wong Foundation donated $10,000.
Vineyard Church gave $10,000, which was matched by a woman in the community that had never met any of the Karis board members.
“The money from November until we opened was like a floodgate,” said Mok-Lamme. “People just gave us dollars from everywhere, writing us checks right and left. We raised $80,000 more than we had thought we would this year. We’ll be at least $30,000 in the black.”
“It just seemed like so often,” said Ginter, “John would call and say, ‘You’re not going to believe what we just got!’”
When, after three months of searching, Darin Carei found (“at three in the morning!” according to Carei) the building that would be used for the location of The House, Karis found themselves in another rut. They had signed the contract for the house two days after finding it, and Cary Eidsness, a Karis board member, put $16,000 of his own money down. Karis still needed to close on the house within seven days, but they didn’t have the money to pay off the short-term loan. When they approached the State of Colorado to see about paying the loan off, they found out that the State would not pay it off.
“And to this day I don’t know why,” said Mok-Lamme. “They said that they’d help us buy it, but they wouldn’t retire any debt.”
So with seven days left to close out the house, Karis began looking for an answer. It came in the form of a dinner party.
Eidsness, at the party, met Peter Waller, a Hilltop board member and President of Karis’ bank, First National Bank of the Rockies. Eidsness summarized Karis’ house situation, which Waller shortly afterward brought before Mike Stall, Chief Executive Officer of Hilltop.
“That’s when Hilltop stepped up,” said Scanga. “They said they would buy the building and lease it to us, which gave us the opportunity to move into the building. They were able to close on it within a 7-day period.”
Gifts came in forms other than money, as well. Colorado West Regional Mental Health offered free, professional mental health services, saving The House over $60,000 per year. Curt Lincoln, a carpenter from Palisade and Karis board member, offered to build the bunk-beds for The House for free, beds whose materials were funded by a blood drive put on by the Medical Society.
“And our physician,” said Mok-Lamme, “I still don’t know where she came from, but that’s all in-kind as well.”
“How do you get all this stuff to come together?” asked Scanga, bewildered. “The media? Hilltop? People stepping up to the plate? It’s pretty amazing.”
“We can only shape the future by what we do. And the future is ever-changing.”
Erica has been trying to change her future ever since her stint at Job Corps ended by applying for jobs and continuing to shed pounds for her debut with the Air Force.
“In transitioning with Job Corps, they were going to help me find a job in a new place,” she said. “But with how the job market is right now, a lot of people are applying for jobs, and a lot of places don’t really want a 20-year old who doesn’t really have a lot of experience in almost everything I would need to work for them.”
Both of these tasks – finding a job and losing weight – were further complicated when Erica arrived in Grand Junction alone.
“Most people, after they complete Job Corps, have friends or family to go live with,” she said. “I was not able to do that because I don’t know anyone else living in Grand Junction, and my dad is all the way in Gunnison.”
Erica tried staying at Homeward Bound for a time, but found it difficult to maintain her job search while staying there.
“It costs something to stay in that place for one night,” she said, “so if I had to stay there continuously, I’d have to be paying them off before I could find an apartment or a job.”
In the midst of such discouragement, Erica looks to memories of her mother as means of pushing herself.
“Even when she was sick, she would always try to get to events that my brother and I were doing, even though it would put great strain on her body,” said Erica. “Every time, I remind myself of everything I did with her; that always gives me the strength to keep going, to never give up. I thank her for the strength she gave me in life. And in death also.”
On May 2, 2012, Karis, Inc. gathered their entire board and several hundred people from the community at Long’s Park in Grand Junction to commemorate the opening of The House, “A Safe Place for Western Slope Teens.”
The months leading up to this point, ever since they had reached their fundraising goal, weren’t smooth months by any means. Two of those months were spent acquiring licensing and approval from the State of Colorado to house teenage youth. Ashley Elliott was hired as Case Manager for The House. Aaron Stites was hired as Program Coordinator for The House on March 8, and had until May 1 to hire, train, and vet at least 40 volunteers who would help with shelter operations.
“I still don’t know how he did it,” said an amazed Mok-Lamme. “It was a miracle.”
But on May 2, doves were released, and the doors to The House were opened.
“The doves, the whole event, the event where it was done,” recalls Wickersham, who spent time as a member of The House’s Steering Committee. “And it wasn’t even about doing, it was about being present and containing the energy. So hearing John talk that day about everything that had to be exactly where it was at that moment, it was amazing.”
“There was so much love and grace, and a fair amount of euphoria,” said Mok-Lamme. “I think we were all a little euphoric that it had finally happened. You get a sense of it being bigger than you with something like this. Way bigger than your vision or your hopes.”
“Once we started and committed to this, I never thought it wouldn’t happen,” said Ginter. “We were committed to making this work. We didn’t see it as ever going to fail.”
The House has now been open for seven months, having housed and served about 75 teens as of this writing.
“I don’t know if we are all prompted to do things by influences, spoken or unspoken,” said Carei, who, with his friend Mok-Lamme, had been involved in the process from the very beginning. “But I think those who helped bring The House to where it is today, many were moved, I think, by a greater purpose than our own. I think it was only by virtue of this that we were able to do what we did with what little we had to do it with.”
“We gave up time, but what we get back is a hundred-fold,” said Haller. “It’s a lot of energy and it’s a lot of effort, and there are heartbreaks along the way in terms of when you think something’s going to come through and then it doesn’t, but the end result and even during the process through, you just are so fed by every kid you meet.”
“I just thought, I’m going to jump on the ice until it cracks,” said Mok-Lamme. “I’m going to pray and jump, pray and jump. And pray it cracks. I always felt peaceful about it, and I never doubted my call. I always felt a deep peace. This is what I’m supposed to do.”
And seven months into operations, for many, the miracle continues to live on.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the process, that this is the miracle because it happened this way,” said Mok-Lamme. “But that’s not, really. Ultimately, the miracle is that those kids have somewhere to go. That they have a clean bed tonight. That the water’s going to run hot tomorrow morning, that there’s nutritious food there, that we’re trying to acquire a business for them to work at. The miracle is the provision for these teens. The safe bed.”
“It feels good to know that you’ve helped someone sleep in a bed, and not by a dumpster,” said Ginter. “We’re here to help other people. We just forget that sometimes.”
“I am thankful that I know them, that I was able to come here and meet them,” said Erica. “Back at Job Corps, they only liked me because of the all the movies I had. But here, it’s something different.”
Erica is sitting on her favorite couch, where she watches her swaths of movies.
“What The House is to me,” she continued, “is extended family, actually. I thought I’d have to go at it alone. I’ve realized that wherever you go, you’re never alone; people are always there with you to guide and be with you. This is what I feel about The House.”
And as Erica continues to try to make contact with her father, that fact may take some getting used to.
“I really don’t know why he’s not responding,” she said, uncertainty in her voice. “I’m trying to think of an answer, but I can’t find one.”
Erica periodically makes phone calls and sends e-mails to Gunnison to get a hold of her father, but now she gets to do so from the security of The House, ever since Homeward Bound sent her there.
“If I could, I would tell him that I’m sorry for what I’ve done in the past, that I wish I could go back and change it,” she said. “That I am thankful that he was there when my brother and I needed him, that he cared for us, gave us what we needed to help us survive. And that I love him very much. I just wish I could really tell him that. It’s what I’ve been trying to tell him for the past two years, actually.”
Erica hopes someday for her father to see her in the midst of her new life.
“I’ve only been doing what I can to show him that what happened will never happen again,” she said. “And that he has also given me the strength to do things that I was never before capable of, to find a strength inside myself that I didn’t know I possessed.”
With The House, according to Erica, also came the help to find that strength.
“I think that if I hadn’t come here, I probably would have ended up in a bad state,” she said. “And they have kept that from happening. They have changed events in a way that will make my life and their lives better and more peaceful.”
The problem’s not solved.
“In ten years, looking back, it’d be great if we weren’t needed,” said Carei, “if all family matters were addressed calmly and profitably to each individual person; but that probably won’t be the case. I hope that if we look back in ten years that the kids we help today are active members of our community and are assisting in furthering the mission of The House, when they are able to.”
Karis estimates that, right now, even another shelter the equivalent of The House would not be enough.
“We need more than ten beds,” says Haller. “We need one in every area of the valley, but it’s more than we had before. Ten more at a time.”
“We’re turning kids away at the door,” says Ginter. “We have kids checking in every two or three days to see if there’s an open bed. That’s not acceptable. If we can get another one going, then that’s what we need to do. They need to have a place they can stay in, have a good night of sleep. And feel safe. Because that’s the goal.”
And due to their circumstances in life, many of these kids need more than just a place to stay.
“You go down there today, and you meet those teens, and they’re teens,” said Mok-Lamme. “They’re not adults. They don’t feel like adults; they don’t look like adults; they don’t quack like adults. They seem a lot more ready for a hug and a cocoa than they do to live on their own or to be out taking care of themselves in the middle of winter.”
“I’ve had a lot of clients that have had significant mental health problems, and they wait until they’re 35 or 40 before they decide that life has to change because it’s not sustainable,” says Suzi Goudzwaard, Clinical Psychologist for Colorado West Regional Mental Health, and therapist for The House. “What I’m really impressed with is how these teens are 18, 19, 20, and they’re at the point where they’re saying, ‘something’s got to change; I can’t keep doing this.’ So it’s a little bit shocking that they’ve gotten to that point at a really young age, because not everyone ever even gets to that point in life.”
That The House provides such amenities, according to Karis, makes all the difference in the world.
“Lots of people have big hearts,” said Haller, “but unless it’s someone’s assigned duty and role to do these things, we can have big hearts, and we can connect a few dots, but the fact that there are people whose job and passion it is to help kids move forward to sustainability is huge. It’s a huge difference.”
“I’m reminded that life is a process, and we are part of that process for these kids,” said Capps. “So we’re not the end all, they’re not going to be better, they’re not going to be healed, they’re not going to be any one thing, but they will have experienced a relationship with somebody who truly cares about who they are in this world.”
For many of these kids, someone like that is probably a rarity.
“And those kids will come out of that shelter bettering society,” continued Capps. “Because they will have felt true connection with someone.”
“I don’t know why they love me,” said Erica. “But I do feel loved by the people at The House. And why I love them is because I feel like I can do stuff for them when they can also do stuff for me. For now, I have people that are there for me. That’s usually why you love them, because they’re there for you. Not because you think they should do something for you or because you think they’ll make you successful or anything; you love them just because they’re there for you.”
Erica pauses here, as the right words assemble themselves in her mind.
“And that leaves an unseen mark that can never be gotten rid of. It leaves the deepest and the most inescapable mark it can.”
The House is 10 bed temporary shelter for homeless, runaway, and unaccompanied youth ages 13 through 20.
Zoe House is a safe transitional housing program for youth survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Zoe House serves 18-24 year olds and their dependents who are homeless or about to become homeless because they are survivors of the aforementioned crimes.
The Street Outreach Program (SOP) reaches out to homeless, runaway and unaccompanied youth between ages 13 and 24 in Mesa County who are living on the street or couch surfing.
Transitional Living Program
The Transitional Living Program encompasses three individual facilities including Benni’s House, and Matthew’s House, serving youth ages 18 through 23.
The Asset House is a two-year transitional housing program for adults ages 18 and older. Residents at Asset House live in single rooms, and share bathrooms and a kitchen. We work to get residents connected with resources and support in the community. The monthly rent includes some food and all utilities.
Bonnie‘s House is a five bed permanent supportive housing program for homeless youth in Mesa County.