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The Red Ledger

The online student news source of Lovejoy High School

The Red Ledger

The online student news source of Lovejoy High School

The Red Ledger

Going home: part one

Going home: part one

Every year in the state of Texas, thousands of children suffering from abuse, neglect, and abandonment are removed from their homes; every 10 seconds a child is victimized by abuse or neglect in the U.S.

There are approximately 1.7 million homeless teens in the U.S., and on one day alone in 2011 it was noted that there were 1,236 homeless students just within Collin County.

[sidebar title=”My Friend’s House Services” align=”left”]

  • Basic needs: food, clothing, and shelter
  • Individual and family counseling
  • Medical examination upon intake
  • Individualized case management
  • Academic assistance
  • Transportation assistance to work or school
  • Nutritional education
  • Recreational activities
  • Positive youth development and support
  • Life skills and therapeutic group classes


Because of the limited amount of foster homes in Texas, and the fact that a group of siblings are in some cases split up when Child Protective Services is trying to relocate them,  a few Collin County residents founded City House, the Collin Intervention To Youth program, a non profit organization located in Plano at 902 East 16th Street. The program serves youth from all over Texas, but most of the teens come from Collin County.

City House was established in 1988 when two Plano ISD teachers saw students arriving at school with all their belongings in a trash bag. The teachers were dismayed and sadly motivated by seeing one teenager sleeping in his pickup truck, another living in a vacant building, and another bringing her clothes to school in a garbage bag. The fact that teens in Plano were actually homeless and that there were no local resources or shelters available to them appalled the teachers and made them want to make a change. A few members of the community rallied together around the cause and a local church provided a shelter that could house only 6 teens, and over the years the program has grown, and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

“At City House, we provide emergency shelter and transitional residential services for children, youth, and young adults who are in need because they are abused, neglected, and yes, homeless,” Executive Director Teresa Keenan said in City House’s introduction video. “But, what we really do is we protect the youth, we empower them to change, and we transform them.”

In December 2009, City House opened a new emergency youth shelter for children up to age 17, My Friend’s House. The shelter is one of the few places that keeps sibling groups together and won’t separate them, giving CPS a longer window to place them.

“One thing that makes My Friend’s House a little different from other shelters is that we allow sibling groups to stay together,” director of volunteer services Lisa Rodgers said in City House’s introduction video. “And not only to stay together, but to interact while they’re here.”

Those who work at the emergency shelter must always be ready for any situation to occur, for they never know when something major could be happening across town.

“A typical day at My Friend’s House for us can start as early as 3:00 in the morning,” crisis program director Jennifer Patten said in City House’s introduction video. “We get those crisis calls and we have to come in with smiles on our faces to help support those kids. Kids come in here and they’ve been around police for hours, been questioned by CPS, and pulled from their family, which are the only safe people that they feel they know, even if it’s not a stable environment for them.”

When first arriving at the shelter, making the children and teens feel safe is the most important and number one objective.

We get those crisis calls and we have to come in with smiles on our faces to help support those kids.

— Jennifer Patten

“They come to My Friend’s House and they are told that they can sleep in a bed and maybe they’ve never slept in a bed before, or maybe they slept in a bed with 4 other siblings and we tell them they have to sleep in a room with just one other sibling,” Patten said. “We have to help them and support them through the entire journey and let them understand that we’re here as a safe place and we’re here to keep them protected.”

Some of the clients of My Friend’s House come to them because Child Protective Services removed the children from their ‘home’ due to abandonment, abuse, or neglect, or all of the above. Other clients are there because they are a runaway or homeless youth, or they are at risk of becoming such.

No matter the circumstance or program the young adults or children are in, City House’s one objective is to provide a nurturing, safe environment they can call home, and to provide them resources to succeed later in life.

The need of neglected children to have a place they can finally call home is the basis for the name of the emergency youth shelter.  The founders of the shelter did not want their residents to have to say they are staying in a shelter, so when asked, they can say “I’m staying at My Friend’s House” and not be questioned about it.

Despite all of the work by City House and the community, the issue of homeless teens and the need for emergency shelters is increasingly growing.

Our vision is that every child, youth and young adult, will develop the skills and the confidence that they need to succeed in spite of the horrible situations they’re in and the bad relationship.

— Teresa Keenan

“Our vision is that every child, youth and young adult, will develop the skills and the confidence that they need to succeed in spite of the horrible situations they’re in and the bad relationship,” Keenan said. “Today, we service youth from newborn all the way through 21, but there are gaps in our service. We need more help from the community. We need individuals, we need churches, we need organizations. We need corporations to help us fill the gap. And if we get that money, then it means we can form a continuum of care around these children, whether they’re here when they’re one year old, or they’re here at 21 going out on their own.”

With money and help granted from the community, the people at City House believe that they can begin to make a change.

“These children are our most precious resources,” Keenan said. “They are our future, they are a part of our community. We can give them the tools and guidance to be the next CEO of JC Penney, or we can let them on their own and have them underneath bridges and homeless, or maybe even in prisons. We need your help and support. With your support, we can protect that youth, we can empower change, and we can transform their lives.”


Volunteer Links:

Donation Links:

The program is currently raising money to extend services into Frisco and later McKinney.

Fundraising and Event Links:

 Check back tomorrow, March 5, to see Going home: part two.

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About the Contributor
Lauren Payne
Lauren Payne, Student Life Editor
Lauren is a sophomore in her fourth year of newspaper, eager to finally to get to sit at the editors table and be a part of the cool people. In her free time (if she has any), Lauren is found on Netflix watching her favorite shows over and over again for the thousandth time, or probably just sleeping. More often than not, Lauren can be found in the Training Room, doing her other favorite thing (the first being newspaper, duh), student Athletic Training. One thing Lauren has discovered during her sophomore year? School is hard. Really hard. But newspaper and the snack cabinet make it worth it.

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    anonMar 4, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    great story:)