Homeless youth carry heavy things that can’t fit into a backpack. They carry the loneliness of being ignored, the heartache of being abandoned, and the anxiety of having to fend for themselves. The Things They Carry is a four-part series about how The Salvation Army is helping homeless youth in the Twin Cities. You can help them too by giving online or becoming a bell ringer.
Martin lives at a Salvation Army youth housing facility in St. Paul.
He carries the burden of child abuse. It started several years before his family moved from Cincinnati to St. Paul in 2007.
“I had a nice childhood until my mom married my stepfather,” said Martin, 21. “He was psychopathic. He would torture me and my sister, physically and psychologically. He threatened to kill my mom if we ever told her.”
His stepfather’s sister also abused him.
“One time she used an extension cord to beat me,” Martin said. “I used to have a scar on my left eye from that, but the scar went away.”
His mental scars remain intact. They’ve interfered with his stability and have contributed to his state of homelessness.
“Being homeless is a real strain,” Martin said. “But I feel like experiencing it at a young age is preparing me to be more responsible for the future.”
Responsible indeed: Martin has been improving his life dramatically, with help from The Salvation Army.
Huge steps forward
Martin arrived at The Salvation Army’s youth housing facility in St. Paul, called Booth Brown House (pictured), about two months ago. The facility provides emergency shelter for youth ages 18–21, and permanent supportive housing for youth ages 18–24. The dozens of youth who stay there receive nonstop guidance and support from Salvation Army caseworkers.
When Martin first moved in, he spent hours a day at the library searching for jobs.
“It was mentally exhausting,” Martin said.
Thankfully, his hard work paid off. He was hired to work in a warehouse and is now earning a steady paycheck. The job is a huge step toward his long-term goals of achieving financial stability, securing his own housing, and attending college for a degree in nursing.
Martin is thankful for the support he has received from The Salvation Army and its supporters.
“Booth Brown House has given me a place to rest,” he said. “It’s allowed me to look for jobs and have housing opportunities. The staff bring a welcoming atmosphere.”
He especially loves the staff.
“I like to mess with them and joke around,” Martin said with a laugh.
Poverty is an everyday battle and sometimes, people don’t win. But there is an army made of generous people like you dedicated to fighting to make sure everyone has a safe place to sleep. They’re in every town and every city, and you can join them in their fight for good by giving online or recruiting your own army as a fundraiser on FundraiseForGood.org, or becoming a volunteer bell ringer.
* Real name changed. Photo for illustrative purposes.