A lost population curls up tightly as winter sheds its colder days. Together the homeless youth may be able to make their way through another day. In Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood, where not everywhere you look is a successful tale of riches, the community claims to be stronger than other places because together is a way to make it another day. From the Wandering Goat to the Red Apple Parking lot, an eccentric group of people litters the community as the scene is set in a surreal atmosphere of survival. Many travelers who come through the “Whit,” as its residents call it, turn away from this community. With centers like Buckley, the JESCO club, Catholic Community Services and the Mission, the homeless are a very integrated piece of the community in Whiteaker. But the homeless youth are a more fragile population because they have not been accustomed to surviving on the streets for nearly as long. According to the Health Resource and Services Administration, “As adolescents, homeless youth are still developing psychologically, cognitively and physically and may make choices that are not in the best interest of their health.”
One center, on the boarder of Whiteaker and Jefferson Westside, gives them hope and safety as they attempt to find a path through homeless life hopefully ending in success—the center is New Roads. In New Roads, a homeless youth drop in center, youth can check in by giving a name and a birthday with nothing further. They find New Roads as a place of safety. If the homeless youth like, they can use the computers, kick back in the lobby, get condoms, eat food or simply get some clothing and toiletries. “The idea of the center is to form a relationship with the homeless youth in hopes that they will open up and become comfortable in sharing themselves and their pain,” Matt Northrop, case manager at New Roads, said. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, causes of homelessness fall into three different categories, which are family problems, economic problems and residential instability. According to Northrop, a main trait of youth with family problems is trust with adults.
Therefore, a place where adults are prevalently running the program is somewhere these youth may struggle to open up. “At first it was leave me be, but eventually you kind of feel like the staff is your family in a fucked up way. I don’t know I talked to them about more real shit than I did with my friends,” Scott Sullivan, a former New Roads client, said. “I mean when you use drugs you pretty much don’t trust anyone. Especially adults. But that is why the center works because they just kind of sit their until YOU talk to them,” he added. Although he has aged out of New Roads, Sullivan said it is the best resource for homeless youth he has ever seen anywhere he spent time homeless.