The most recent meeting of the Central Texas Homeless Coalition focused on teens.

Ebony Jackson, chair of the Central Texas Homeless Coalition, said she recently called on Central Texas Youth Services to help out with a teen she met at an area grocery store.

“I called Bari Gamble on a Saturday, because this teen needed help, he was not in good shape,” Jackson said. “It was great to have a point of contact when there is a person in need.”

Gamble is the residential case manager for Central Texas Youth Services.

Darrell Ross, works in street outreach for Central Texas Youth Services, and talked about some of the different programs the agency offers its clients.

The Maternity Group Home provides housing and supportive services to homeless youths of Central Texas, parents, and those expecting, ages 16-21, for a period not exceeding 18 months.

The Transitional Living Program provides housing and supportive services to homeless youths of Central Texas, ages 16-21, for a period not exceeding 18 months.

Transitional Resource Center Services provides employment and education assistance to former foster youths of Central Texas, ages 16-25.

Option House offers emergency housing, supportive services, and transitional living program opportunities to youths of Central Texas, ages 11-17. A cooling off “respite” period is offered for up to three days for families who are in crisis or conflict.

The drop in centers are located in Harker Heights, Belton and Waco.

“They are mainly used by youth who need to take a shower, get something to eat and they can get case management,” Ross said.

Project Hope is for youth who have been trafficked or at risk of being trafficked.

Ross said Street Outreach goes out into the community and tries to connect with the youth out on the streets.

“We want them to know what services we provide and we’ll connect them with other resources in the community,” he said.

Supportive services the agency offers include assistance in obtaining identification documents; basic need supplies; case management; education and employment assistance; life skills/groups and parenting classes; crisis intervention/ counseling services; and community referrals.

Youth leave home for a number of reasons — family conflict/rejection; abuse and/or neglect; inadequate support; unstable family housing; substance abuse/mental health problems; aging out of foster care; safer on the streets that at home, Ross said.

It is reported that youth are lured in by traffickers within 48 hours of being on the street, he said.

“We try to get to the youth before anything happens,” he said

Delawrence White, 22, came to Central Texas Youth Services seeking assistance.

Originally from Virginia, White followed a girl to Killeen.

“I feel like it was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “I don’t think I’d be where I am today if I hadn’t been dumb enough to follow that girl across the country.”

He showed up to Central Texas Youth Services with some psychological baggage.

White didn’t grow up in a stable home; his mother pushed him out of the house when he was 14 years old. His father was not in the picture.

White said he was OK with no parental figures because that way he had no boss. He did manage to stay out of trouble, or at least he didn’t get caught.

As a teen he participated in a 5K run and came in third place.

“I called my dad to tell him, I had the medal in my hand and everything,” White said. “His number had been changed and he hadn’t bothered to tell me.”

As difficult as his mother was, she never took drugs, but White did.

“The drugs numbed the pain,” he said. “I was going through a lot.”

White took up wrestling in school and he had some talent, placing in state competitions.

He looked at his wrestling coach as a parental figure. The coach listened to White.

“Some of the worst pain I’ve been through with my mom he knows about,” White said of the coach. “He knew things not even my brothers or sisters knew about.”

White was homeless and for a long time didn’t really sleep. He’d find a place to sit, where he didn’t look out of place, and he’d take cat naps.

“I’d do that all night,” he said.

He finally connected with Youth Services and took advantage of what the organization has to offer.

White now has a place to live and he has a TV and Wi-Fi.

He plans to get back in college and is now in a position to put some money aside.

Jackson announced that 2019 is the 20th anniversary of the Homeless Coalition and an event is being planned for the fall to celebrate the organization.