More than one year ago, Elias packed a bag, grabbed all of the money he had—$17—got in his car and left an abusive relationship in the dark of night.
He hoped he could move back in with his mom, but was refused. His car became the closest thing he had to a home. January nights get cold in Minnesota and gas to run the heater is hard to come by on extremely limited funds, but Elias pushed through.
While he had dropped out of high school in his sophomore year, he returned to his old high school, Augsburg Fairview Academy in Minneapolis. There, he was able to connect with the outreach team from Catholic Charities’ Hope Street Shelter.
“I was going for anything to get me out of the back seat of my car,” he said.
Thankfully there was space available at Hope Street, and he was able to move right in. He got the last bed.
His circumstances, while heartbreaking, are not unusual. More than 85 percent of youth served at Hope Street last year were suffering from depression, and 60 percent were kicked out of their homes. More than half were suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
At Hope Street, Elias was supported by case manager Jess Pierce. She held him accountable and helped link him to other resources.
“I tell the youth it’s like basketball. I’m the point guard and they’re the coach,” she said. “I can only work as hard as the coach. I am going to be that one adult in your life who is always gonna be keeping it real,” she said.
Last spring Elias was able to move into an apartment of his own. It’s small, less than 650 square feet, but he has made it his home for now.
He wakes up every day at 6:45 a.m., spends time reading the Bible and takes a shower before heading to school at 7:30 am. School ends at 3:30 p.m., then he gets in his car and heads to Minnetonka to work at a restaurant until 11 p.m. Every night before he goes to bed, the 19-year-old enjoys a bit of youth and falls asleep watching cartoons.
He works 10-hour days on the weekends, his timecard racking up more than 40 hours each week. Every Sunday morning before work he heads to church. Between school and work, he doesn’t have much time for anything else. He’s working to keep everything together and stay off the streets.
Despite the busy schedule, Elias recently took a day to give back. He filled bins full of household supplies and made fleece blankets at a Home for Good event with Greater Twin Cities United Way. Remembering how good it felt when he received a similar basket upon moving into his apartment, Elias wanted to pitch in and help.
“It made me feel good to help because I know some of those buckets were going back to Hope Street,” he said. “That bin is saying ‘You are loved. You are cared for. Here’s your second chance.’”
When he graduates high school this winter, Elias plans to pursue a career in youth and family ministry. It has been a long road, but Elias sees positivity in his future.
“I am so blessed to have you guys back me up,” Elias said. “I am truly just thankful for Jess and the staff at Hope Street because they truly do care.”
Catholic Charities Hope Street is the only program in the metro region that offers outreach, shelter, transitional housing and permanent housing to provide integrated services for youth in many different circumstances.