Keith was raised by his birth parents in a stable household with both mother and father present. During his teen years he went through a rebellious stage and started doing things his own way which strained his relationship with his parents. He has an older sister and a younger brother but the age gap between them kept him from feeling close to either sibling. With a growing distance from his parents and the substance abuse issues he observed in his extended family, Keith began to drift into an unhealthy lifestyle. He began smoking weed and selling drugs. Eventually this led to missed days at school and getting into trouble. His grades began to slip and eventually he dropped out of school. In his own words, “There was nothing good going on in my life.”
Sometime after Keith dropped out of school, he had a fight with his parents. He left the house in anger, determined not to go back. As he wandered the streets for several hours without a plan or any idea of what to do next, an incident from the prior week came back to him. “I had been at the transport center when a woman came up to me with a small yellow flyer. She said, ‘Do you need shelter or know anyone who does? Here is a 1-800 number where you can call for shelter. Take one of these cards and pass it on.’ I wasn’t going to take the flyer, but something told me to, so I did.” A week later, out on the streets, he remembered the yellow flyer. Keith got in touch with his sister and asked her to call the number for him. That call led to his first stay at Covenant House.
Looking back, he admits, “I didn’t like the rules when I first came. I was breaking them a lot, smoking weed on the weekends when I had a pass and being disrespectful to the staff in Caritas.” Eventually, Keith got himself discharged. Instead of finding another shelter to check into, Keith wandered the streets, living and sleeping wherever he could find shelter.
It took him about a month to wake up to reality. He didn’t really want to be on the streets. “That “something” that told me to take the flyer in the first place, that was God. It was God who got me to come back to Covenant House the second time.” Slowly, Keith’s eyes were opening to the detrimental effects of his life choices. He began to see that he had control over his own future and that the choices he was making were not ones which would lead him anywhere. “Being out on the streets really opened my eyes. The first time I came all I wanted was a bed to sleep in. I wasn’t interested in the rest of the program and I wasn’t going to follow the rules.”
As his perspective changed so did his attitude. “I’m so grateful to Ms. Campbell for letting me back in the program. She talked to me on the phone when I called and asked her if I could come back. I know she didn’t have to let me in but she did and I am grateful.” He acknowledged the importance of structure in the program and added, “The program has helped me learn how to grow up, get up early in the morning, speak correctly in a job interview, have better manners, articulate my thoughts and communicate.”
It took some time, but Keith eventually finished his diploma and found a job. Keith feels his confidence in his interviewing skills and ability to get a job came through the programs here. “I’ve matured a lot through this process, even my thoughts have changed. My bond with my mother has gotten stronger as she has seen the changes in my life. I’m learning to make amends.” Keith admitted that his relationship with his dad is still strained but he hopes that one day it will get better too. He talks about the Employment Program being a huge part of his transformation. “Before this, I had never cashed a check, not once. They taught me how to dress for an interview, to be open-minded and to be on time. It’s easy for me to go to an interview now.”
As Keith reflected on his overall experience and the growth he has gone through, he said, “Covenant House is more than a shelter, it’s a life changing experience.” “He added, “I really want to personally thank Ms. Campbell and Covenant House for helping me.”