Hope Street helps teen spread her wings

Valarie’s journey into homelessness began in her late teens when she told her parents she could not abide by the rules of their strict religion. Instead of acceptance and understanding, her dad picked her up, carried her out the door, set her on the stoop and shut the door.

“I’ve never looked back,” she said. “I’ve come to accept that they can’t accept me.”

Valarie has moved around a lot of the last couple of years, staying with siblings and friends, sleeping in a tent in the woods and at Catholic Charities’ Hope Street Shelter.

“I was kind of scared about staying at Hope Street, but the staff was genuinely nice,” she said. “I remember that first night I just wanted to stay in my room but then they said it was dinnertime and I hadn’t eaten that day, so I came out.”

Valarie, now 20, is about to move into a place of her own, a one-bedroom duplex in Northeast Minneapolis.

“I’m nervous, I’m excited and I’m scared,” she said. “I’m nervous because I’ve never lived on my own. I’m excited because it’s someplace I can call home finally and I’m scared because I don’t know the area.”

Christi Neaton has been Valarie’s case manager at Hope Street. She said she has seen Valarie transform and mature since first coming to the youth shelter.

“I am very proud of Valarie,” Neaton said. “She has come so far and worked very hard to get where she is today.”

Once settled, Valarie plans to go back and finish her high school degree, then get additional training. While she’ll never fit with her parent’s religion, Valarie did not leave faith behind. She attended services at several houses of worship before finding a church home.

“I go to a Lutheran church now,” she said. “It seems more like a family than a church. I was trying to find a religion where I could fit in.”

Valarie is not alone, as he knows other youth who have become homeless because their parents did not accept them for who they are.

“Homelessness is not really something you do to yourself when you’re a teenager,” she said. “When you see homeless youth, know it’s probably because of stuff they had no control over, but they’re working on it.”

Because of you, Valarie was been able to get the skills she needed to transition to an independent life.

“I enjoyed my experience here. I’m glad I was able to get the help I needed to finally be able to push off on my own,” she said. “I feel at home here, but it’s time to move on and spread my wings,” she said.

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