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Homeless in the New Year

I have a CASA kid, he is homeless.

Dennis is in DCS custody at 14 years old, he was acting out and using drugs, his biological mother was unable to supervise him as she suffered with addiction and mental illness. His biological father cannot be found. Mother's boyfriend abused him.

Dennis and his uncle John are living in a hotel right now. For most of December they have been hoteling or couch surfing. They are lucky as John's mother is helping finance the hotel rooms. They are on a list to get into Verde Valley Extended Stay, small one bedroom apartments that have housed more than a few transitioning people.

John, gets by on a small pension and disability. He took Dennis in at his previous home (he rented a room from a friend). The friend did not want a troubled 14 year old around, and kicked them out.

Dennis tells me he is thankful for uncle John, he has provided him safety and advice throughout his growing up years. He tells me that hotels "aren't bad."

John tells me that Dennis has been tearful at times, angry, and one night just disappeared for 12 hours. John has been homeless before, but having a vulnerable teen with him raises the bar of what John needs to do to provide a home as Dennis' foster care placement.

Homelessness and being in DCS custody is not at all easy. DCS is working with John to get them adequate housing, Extended Stay is a stepping stone to a more permanent residence. Right now in the Verde Valley, there are not a lot of affordable places to rent.

As a CASA for Dennis, I let him talk about his experiences. It took him a while to open up about his life, but he has come to trust me and the consistency I bring, similar to the consistency that John brings to Dennis' life.

What else can I do? I cannot get them a home. I cannot fix Dennis' mother (or father). As a CASA this is often the frustrating part. I can be an adult friend who is supportive of Dennis' future. I can give John a break from parenting. I can assist Dennis with school work, with sports or other (read costly) activities he is interested in.

Being a CASA is by no means all flowers and rainbows. It can be frustrating to see a parent try to come clean, then fall back into the pattern of abuse. It is frustrating to see Dennis and John homeless.

I am a CASA, I am for the child.

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