Case Study: "Amber"

"Amber's" Experience at the Shelter as Told by Executive Director, Kevin Lamson (name changed for confidentiality)

Amber was brought to the shelter by another homeless youth who Amber had met at Lithia Park. Initially Amber was resistant to staying at the shelter as she felt, at 17-years of age, she could take care of herself on the streets. Although Hearts With A Mission staff attempted to engage Amber-hoping she would make a safe decision and give HWAM a try, Amber initially left the shelter just as she had run from her home weeks earlier. Listed as a runaway, Amber was eventually picked up by police and brought back to the shelter. This time, Amber agreed to stay at the shelter. Amber's mother was contacted and began engaging in services with her daughter.

Amber initially presented as depressed, withdrawn, angry and could not imagine a healthy future for herself. She was failing in school-falling further and further behind and had few friends beyond those she was meeting on the streets.

During the course of her stay at the shelter, Amber slowly became more open to talking with the Counselors and Life Coaches. She disclosed that she had been adopted and was struggling with feelings of being abandoned by her birth mother. Additionally, she felt her adoptive parents listen to or understand her. She described how she began increasingly isolating herself as a way of coping which added to greater feelings of abandonment and being alone.

While at the shelter, Amber found it impossible to continue to isolate herself. Other youth with similar stories engaged Amber in friendship and HWAM staff encompassed her with wrap-a-round support-her Case Manager helped Amber to set goals for herself; Life Coaches provided her with mentoring and tutoring while helping her to learn life-skills; Counselors worked with Amber both individually and in family counseling to help increase family member interconnectedness and empathy. Counseling also helped Amber to address issues related to being adopted-helping her to re-frame her feelings about herself from "abandoned" to "chosen".

Also during Amber's stay at the shelter, she was supported in bettering her grades in school and ultimately graduated with her class. HWAM staff helped her apply to colleges and to complete scholarship applications. Amber was accepted at the University of Oregon on a scholarship. Amber's mother now volunteers at the shelter while her daughter stays busy working two jobs preparing for her future.

Parent Testimonial Quotes

"HWAM helped by providing & offering counseling to myself and my daughters. All the staff is/was amazing and very supportive. I would recommend Hearts for any child in need. Thank you could never express how grateful I am but I am going to say than you anyway! So to ALL staff, the work you are doing is amazing. Thank you all very much!"
"HWAM helped our family keep our focus as well as going forward with family goals-work, housing, daycare, school. The whole homeless experience could have been horrifying. This was, in may ways, uplifting. Thank you for the all-encompassing help that fave us the opportunity to keep our family together."
"HWAM provided shelter and counseling for my son.  He was having domestic problems at home and using drugs and alcohol to cope.  HWAM made it possible for [my son] to stay in school and deal with family in a positive way.  Thank you."
"Hearts helped my family tremendously. My family is now able to communicate better and problem solve better than before.  The staff is amazing they provide so much support for all the kids!  I strongly recommend this program for any child.  Thank you to all the staff you are all amazing."
"They provided the structured environment that [my youth] needed to stay out of trouble and an environment of consistency to help her learn how to follow directions."