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Nonprofit a refuge for homeless D-FW teens

LEWISVILLE — Kyle's Place, a new nonprofit shelter dedicated for homeless teens, is fighting for youths who often slip through the cracks of government oversight and private attempts to help them.

"There are essentially two kinds of cases we deal with," said Christy Daniel, program and clinic coordinator for Journey to Dream, the nonprofit behind Kyle's Place in Lewisville. "Unaccompanied youth, who have been essentially abandoned by their parents but haven't been picked up by [Child Protective Services], and those who have been removed from their family by CPS."

Starting around the age of 16, children tend to be passed over by CPS, Daniel said, which often lacks manpower for cases considered "less severe," making it less likely that youths will be removed from a neglectful home and are instead simply left to fend for themselves.

"Parents can pull it together while CPS is around," Daniel said. "And then [CPS] has no reason to remove the child from their home, since they aren't being physically or sexually abused." 

But even in those cases, she said, it doesn't mean the child's home life is conducive to healthy growth.

"Most CPS cases are recurring," said Izell Bennett, supervisor of Kyle's Place. "So [those parents] know the gambit and make it appear as if everything is normal. It's not, and the ones who suffer are the kids."

Daniel and Bennett point out that despite the immense setbacks that can seize homeless teens throughout the course of their young lives, they each strive to make things better for themselves, and maintain their commitment to getting their education.

"These kids, in the midst of trying to figure out where they are going to eat and sleep, are also worried about how they're going to get to school," said Daniel. "They all want an education."

Kyle's Place is the product of a continued commitment on the part of Journey to Dream, a Dallas-Fort Worth-based nonprofit devoted to helping young, at-risk youth transition to the next stage of their lives, as well as provide a wealth of other services and programs for young people in the area, including peer-to-peer assemblies at local schools and support groups.

The purpose of these groups is to provide a space where students feel comfortable discussing their personal experiences and feelings, in an environment that also encourages the building of self-esteem and life skills, according to Journey to Dream's website. Fostering an appropriate attitude to destructive behavior, learning to properly cope and improving self-control are just some of the aspects covered in the support groups. 

The facility gets its name from Kyle Milliman, a Flower Mound teen who took his own life in 2012 while a senior in high school. A "Dream Maker" with Journey to Dream prior to his death, Milliman participated in the organization's peer-to-peer assemblies, and the hope is that through the nonprofit's new facility, his legacy and commitment to helping others will live on.

"His death inspired [Journey to Dream] to create a crisis center for kids who feel like they have nowhere to turn," Daniel said. "We wanted to be a long-term solution. Not a Band-Aid."

The goal for every young person who walks through the door of Kyle's Place is embodied in the ideals of Journey to Dream: embrace, equip and empower. The facility is equipped with beds for seven boys and seven girls, as well as a kitchen, a common space and an outdoor area. In terms of services, Kyle's Place provides individual case management, counseling, medical and dental care, academic assistance, transportation to and from school and other opportunities for outreach.

"We tried to make this place feel as homey as possible," Bennett said. "You can tell that there was a lot of love invested not just by the staff but by the community as well."

Adorned above each of the rooms is the name of the individual or group whose contributions made the Kyle's Place project possible. Bennett said the outpouring of support from the community is astounding, and has made it more likely for the Kyle's Place model to possibly expand to other areas. Bennett added that a "wish list" is on the Kyle's Place website with items that the facility is currently in need of, including a list of toiletries that will always be in demand. 

"They'd like to eventually expand to Denton, Krum and Sanger," he said. "Everyone who steps foot in here says two things: 'It feels like home,' and 'There is a lot of love in this place.'"

HARRISON LONG can be reached via Twitter at @HarrisonGLong.

FEATURED IMAGE: Shelter administrator and clinical coordinator Christy Daniel, left, stands May 31 with site supervisor Izell Bennett near some artwork at Kyle's Place. Kyle'•s Place will provide shelter and 24-hour care for homeless teens.  CREDIT: Jeff Woo/DRC