There Was Generosity You’d Feel the Moment You Walked in the Door

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Over the past four decades, YouthLink has connected thousands of young people to the services they need to transition from homeless to hopeful. Many of these young people graduate from YouthLink empowered and ready to continue on their journeys of self-reliance. We reconnected with some of our alumni to talk about their experience with YouthLink—and to find out where they are now.

Josh has big plans for next spring: “I want to do a concession trailer at different county fairs and festivals. I’m planning to do smoked meats, ribs, brisket. Smoked trout, too. You don’t see that very often.” His years as a chef and restaurant manager have given him everything he needs to follow his dream, but there was a time when it didn’t seem quite so possible.

“I was raised in Washington state. My mom was all over the place. For most of my childhood, I had to fend for myself and take care of my younger brother. We moved around a lot and I ended up getting in trouble when I was a kid. When I was 15, I moved to Minnesota to live with my father,” Josh remembers.

“I was going through the typical teen angst. We were butting heads all the time, so, when I was 18, I moved out of the house and lived on the streets of Minneapolis for about three years.”

It was during these three years that Josh started coming to YouthLink. “I was reserved about the entire thing. I always thought ‘People don’t give away things for free; there is always a cost.’ I was shocked people at YouthLink were there to genuinely help. That was refreshing. There was a generosity you’d feel the moment you walked in the door.”

Josh relied on YouthLink for a number of things over the years he experienced homelessness, but there was one day he says will stick with him forever: “There was one time I couldn’t find a place to stay, so I had to sleep under a bridge by a local beach. The mosquitos were so thick, I felt like a pin cushion. I woke up the next morning and I went straight to YouthLink.

“They took one look at me and saw I was all swollen and puffy. I was horribly dehydrated. They took me to the hospital. They put me on saline and got me a place to stay so I could rest for a while.”

This help in a desperate time shaped the way Josh sees the world to this day. “My compassion for others has definitely changed because of the things the people at YouthLink were kind enough to do for me. I wish there was more I could do. It would be nice to be in a position to help people who need it, so when they’re 35 looking back, they can say ‘There was someone there to help me.’”

Outside of becoming a philanthropic restaurant owner, Josh has other big plans for his future: “I hope to be married soon. My girlfriend is amazing. She’s a pistol. She keeps me in line. She’s a remarkable woman and an amazing mother. I want to marry her. I’m trying to be patient, but it’s not exactly my strong suit.”

When someone points to the patience he must have had to get to where he is today, Josh muses, “I’m not sure if it was patience or trial and error. One way or another, I got there. Considering I’ve had to do it all on my own. I take a lot of pride in that.”

At YouthLink, we’re patient—and proud of what we’ve done—but we also know that we can’t do it without the support of people like you. (And, yes, once Josh finalizes his plans for next spring, we’ll let you know where you can go to support him—and eat some great food—too!)

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