My name is Janieve and I am new to Hosea. In fact, I am new to the concept of youth homelessness. I have only been volunteering at Hosea for a few weeks, but the impact that these kids have had on me in the short time that I have been here, has already changed my life.
I was introduced to Jesus early on in my life and have walked a pretty straight path my whole life. I have been blessed with provision, love, and limited exposure to pain. Because of this, I was uneducated and unaware of the abundance or even existence of youth homelessness. Before I had begun volunteering at Hosea, I was hanging out with Tauna one night and we went on a walk downtown. We came across several teenagers just hanging out on the streets. Tauna referred to them as “her kids” and she greeted them like that. That was the first time I had literally seen kids living on the streets and it broke my heart.
When I looked at them, I saw young adults, just like me. The only difference was that I had somewhere to walk to. I had a refrigerator full of food and they had handfuls of change. I had parents that loved me and most of them have never known what that’s like. I had things. They didn’t. There was no difference in our worth and there was no difference in the way God loves them and the way God loves me. So when I began volunteering at the Drop In, I started to meet these kids and learn their stories. As I said, I am still new so I don’t know all of the kids by name yet and I haven’t really moved into deep conversation with many of them, but I have had a lot of time to observe.
I have spent the last couple of weeks watching how these kids interact with each other and with the volunteers. I’ve begun to learn their tendencies and their personalities. I can’t even count the amount of times that these kids have left me speechless (in a good way). They are giving. They are selfless. They are full of love and generosity. But most of all, it is so apparent that these kids just want to be loved and accepted. They want to be acknowledged and appreciated. They want the same things that we volunteers want. Their situations just make it harder to come by.
Most people don’t take the time to really see these kids. To see what’s underneath their worn tattered clothes and their economic status. But if you really pay attention and you sit back and observe, you will see these kids coming in an hour early to volunteer their own time as a way of giving back to Hosea. You will see them greet their friends and the staff with such genuine kindness. You will see them jump out of their chair when someone asks for the trash to be taken out. You will see kids respond with understanding when its a busy day at the Drop In and they may miss an opportunity to take a shower. You will see kids thank the cooks for a good meal. You will see a youth give another youth her own jeans because “she looked like she needed them more.”
The way that these kids treat others, despite their circumstances will bring tears to your eyes. It will make you see life differently. That’s what it has done for me. I am more than excited to continue growing and learning from these kids. I can’t wait to see how God uses them and how God will use me in this process.