“I first became involved with Seton back in September of 2012. At the time, I was living with a guardian, but there were several incidents that led up to her pepper-spraying me. Once the police became involved, they removed me from her custody and I was placed at Seton. I honestly believe the time I spent at Seton helped shape me into the person I am today and also the person I want to be in the future. I chose to major in political science because the subject field interested me, and I also believe a degree in political science is helpful in the legal field. The reasons I intend on becoming a lawyer have changed vastly and it is largely due to my experience at Seton. Originally, I wanted to work in corporate law because of the financial stability it offers. However, since meeting the many wonderful people that work at Seton I’ve realized that doing something that is rewarding and something that makes a difference in someone else’s life is far more important. I largely credit this change in viewpoint to my counselors at the time, Mr. Raymond, Ms. Mirayah, and Mr. Keith. I’ve learned so much from them that it would be impossible to list them all. Treating others with respect, understanding that everyone is not the same, compassion, and helping others are just a few of the things they’ve taught me.
The counselors of Seton went above and beyond to support me. Even after I left Seton and went into a foster home, Ms. Mirayah and Mr. Keith would take me out and spend time with me. The biggest thing Seton provided me were the people that believed in me and supported me. They took time out of their lives to help a random kid.
My counselors were what inspired me to become a mentor. I wanted to, at least, try to do what my counselors did for me for someone else. I enjoy spending time with my mentee; he is young, but I like that because it reminds me that difficulties in life are relative and what may seem as a catastrophe is not actually that serious, and that puts things in perspective for me when I’m feeling stressed.
From Seton as an organization, I realized that there are many people in this world that are suffering and dealing with things in their lives. When I first arrived at Seton, I felt alone and thought that I was the only one who had to deal with circumstances, but after meeting the other residents, and volunteering at the Seton Street Outreach Program Crow’s Nest and Street Outreach Program, I learned that I was not alone and that many people deal with things in their daily lives. I also learned that there are people in this world that are willing to help if I’m willing to accept it.” –Michael Ma
Notes: Michael graduated from ODU in December of 2017 and is currently a rising 3L at the University of Virginia School of Law. Also, Michael was recognized in 2013 for his volunteer work within the community receiving the President’s Volunteer Service Award.
For me, Seton Youth Shelters was more than a shelter. For a short period of time, it was home. I was homeless, and they took me in with no hesitation. While I was there, they assisted me in looking for a job, and finding permanent housing.
At the time I was homeless, I was attending school to get my diploma in Medical Assisting. It was hard to attend school without anybody realizing that I was homeless without the proper hygiene. One day, a classmate of mine figured it out and started to help me out by calling some of the places that might take me in and decided that calling Seton Youth Shelters was worth a try. I was elated, and they admitted me the same night.
Throughout my stay there were rules I had to adhere to and it was not all that great to have to follow rules again, but I decided that it was better to have a place to stay with rules than to be living on the streets on my own. It was good to be able to talk to people about certain things that happened in my life that I otherwise would have just kept bottled up. To know that there were people that were in my corner as a support group was very heartening to me. They are like family to me; they made an everlasting impression on me.
Street Outreach was very helpful when it came to transportation, and when I really needed people to just listen and be real with me. That team is made up of some of the best people I have had the pleasure to cross paths with in my life. They allowed me to let down my barriers, and to trust them completely, which is something I have never done before.
I will never forget what they did for me for that period I was in the shelter and afterwards.
After coming from another country at an early age and being raised by her mother into her teen years, Sara found herself in a cultural chasm after her mother was suddenly and unexpectedly no longer in the picture.
Assigned a guardian who never materialized, Sara found herself alone and forced to depend on the only custodial “parent” who would step forward. This relationship ended badly and she was brought to Seton Youth Shelters to figure out what to do next.
Once at the shelter, it was obvious to shelter staff that Sara’s cultural and sociological beliefs had isolated her from talking about most situations in her life and she was used to handling crises in solitude.
During group counseling at SYS Sara listened intently and began to realize that she was not alone in her troubles and that there were people out there who wanted to hear her story. It was during individual counseling that she finally was able to trust, form bonds, and open up. Once these transformations began, Sara began to discover a whole new world. Through counseling and guidance from Seton Staff and encouragement from those around her, Sara became involved in extra-curricular activities at school and began developing a rich peer network. She became a source of support and advice for other shelter residents and even began volunteering in Seton’s Street Outreach Program.
Today, Sara has been placed in a foster situation and is looking at colleges. Through her newly-discovered empathic spirit, she hopes to become a legal advocate for youth who may find themselves in need of someone who understands their struggles.
On December 10, 2010, I was really struggling in school and in my life in general. But on that day I was also homeless. I was not the easiest student to teach, nor was I the easiest person to even help. I had been making poor decisions for myself for quite some time. I was popular at school and had a lot of friends; which really just made it easier for me to ignore the warning signs of my particular situation… 19 years old, in high school, unemployed and now homeless.
My guidance counselor called Seton Youth Shelters Street Outreach Programs and they came to my school to meet with me. It has now been almost two years of their assistance and guidance. A lot has happened… 12 episodes of helping me off the streets; 6 occasions of helping me get important medical attention; getting my birth certificate, my social security card, a state identification card and later a replacement; helping me get food stamps; 3 different jobs; being there for my church confirmation; three different schools; countless meetings with school officials and countless sessions where I needed crisis counseling to deal with my most recent emergency (and there were plenty of them).
I guess by now you kind of get the idea that a lot of things happened to me I didn’t deal with very well long before Seton Youth Shelters got involved. It is all still with me… I just have a much better handle on it now. If I wanted help, there was one commitment I had to guarantee… to be present and accounted for when it came to meetings, appointments and decisions to be made. You see, I had to be involved every step of the way. I upheld my commitment to Street Outreach Staff 100 percent and it was one of the best decisions I made.
Today I am a better man for it. I graduated from high school in August 2012, the first person in my family to do this. Staff helped me to connect and secure benefits that, for now, help me live safely off the streets while I plan for the future. I don’t have a criminal record and I am drug free. Staff supported me in keeping positive relationships with people who are important to me. They talked straight to me without judging me… even if I acted like what they said didn’t matter. I now have a future to plan for.
I have grown a lot since Seton Youth Shelters got involved in my life and I still have a lot of growing to do. I don’t know what would have happened to me if Seton Youth Shelters hadn’t stood by me all this time. They cared for me when I didn’t care about myself. They advocated for me when I didn’t know how to express myself. They fed me when I was hungry. They helped me explore solutions and solve problems when I shut down and got stubborn. They never gave up on me… they never walked away.
I want everyone to know that we really need Seton Youth Shelters. They really care and they do a great job. I will always be grateful for what they have done for me and I’m glad they are here for other youth like me.
In Loving Memory of Kielen Dunn
Kielin Dunn accomplished his life long wish to become a United States Marine. He was killed in action serving his country in February 2010 and is remembered for his kindness and his desire to help other young people who were receiving shelter and counseling at Seton Youth Shelters.
The Seton Youth Shelters, for me, was a place of refuge from the streets. Before I became homeless, I had a plan to join the U.S. Marines after I finished my senior year. But after an unfortunate event, I was left with nowhere to go. I was moving place to place and I still had one year of school left. While living with a friend’s family, we found out about a program call Street Outreach. After talking with David, I planned to come to Seton Youth Shelters. I attended summer school for free, and was able to graduate early with cap and gown and enter the Marine Corps. None of this would have been possible without Seton Youth Shelters and their Street Outreach Programs. Thanks to my friend’s family for helping me connect to Seton Youth Shelters Street Outreach Programs and the cooperation between the public schools of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, I was able to reach my goals of graduating from high school with a diploma and enter the U.S. Marine Corps.
From David Mount, Director of Street Outreach Programs & Safe Place Programs Director
Kielen_Dunn_03Both Kielin and I wish to extend a heartfelt “Thank You” to the family that assisted and supported him in completing his Junior year in High School, the Guidance Department at Western Branch High School, the Summer School Administration, Teachers and Staff at Landstown High School, City of Virginia Beach Public Schools’ Project Hope, the U.S. Marine Corps Recruitment Staff and the Staff of Seton Youth Shelters for their willingness to think outside of the box and collectively join together to collaborate and become the “Solution Team” so dreams can continue and goals are achieved.
Kielin entered Seton Youth Shelters on June 17, 2008, attended summer school to complete the last two courses he needed to qualify as a diploma graduate. He graduated from High School on August 8, 2008 and left Seton Youth Shelters with his recruiter on August 10, 2008 to enter the U.S. Marine Corps. He attended boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina and served as his Platoon Leader during this initial phase of his armed forces service. Kielin graduated at Parris Island and was fully inducted into the U.S. Marine Corps on November 7, 2008 with the rank of Private First Class.
I found myself homeless and staying in the street, sleeping in buildings and just trying to survive. I was able to get a job at Popeye’s while I was in the streets because my manager had gave me a chance to try it once more. While I was working I still was living in the street. I was scared of what was going to come out of all this, but I decided to go to my old school and talk to my guidance counselor about my problems. She called Project Hope and they told her to call Seton Youth Shelters Street Outreach Programs.
My Guidance Counselor called David Mount and he came to interview me and ask what my future goals were. Well, after that he took me to a Winter Shelter Program at Volunteers of America and I slept at different churches for a week. The Street Outreach Program came to see me everyday and helped me maintain my job, finish my required community service from an incident when I was 17 years old and helped me get my clothes clean and shower. After David saw how serious I was about turning my life around, I went to the Seton Youth Shelters (boy’s house). I had debt I had to take care of too. David helped me get a savings account, gave me rides to work and talked to me about how to pay-off all my debt. Now I’m debt free. I found out that I couldn’t go back to my old school because I missed too many days and at the time I wasn’t enrolled in school.
David and Street Outreach Staff helped me to enroll into the Adult Learning Center. I got my GED in three weeks and just finished with my graduation ceremony. Seton Youth Shelters and the Street Outreach Programs helped me learn about Job Corps and get all the information together and took me to the open house. Right now I am on my way to Job Corps to study a trade in Business Technology, Cable Installer, and Computer Technician. I am planning on staying there for two years and then going to college after.
I stayed at Seton Youth Shelters for three months. If I wasn’t at Seton Youth Shelters I feel that I would have been in jail or dead. Also, I feel very blessed to be in God’s hand and him helping me get through all of this and guiding the wonderful people who helped me to myself and to others. I still keep in contact with my parents and they came to my graduation. I’ll always remember how I bounced back up from the gutter into the lights of success.
Allison (Allie) Thomas-Willwerth has been an avid Seton supporter for over a decade. She has volunteered in several of our annual fashion shows and she is always available when we need help. She's vocal about her support for us, and she is one of many valued volunteers.
Allie came to us in her teen years, in crisis, and needing assistance. According to Allie, she was “depressed and going through a time in (her) life that every girl goes through.” She continues to explain that she “was in desperate need of help and found help through Seton Youth Shelters.” She was able to meet other clients who were in the same situation as her. She recalls that “some didn’t have families, but staying at the shelter (she) got great counseling and got help without being pressured. Seton Youth Shelters helped me get out and become the woman that I am today.”
After her stay at Seton Youth Shelters, Allie became involved in the Seton Youth Ambassadors (now H.Y.P.E.), a leadership and volunteer program for middle and high school students. The Seton H.Y.P.E. team serves as advocates for their peers, the teen population of Hampton Roads, and as youth representatives of Seton Youth Shelters. Voicing her support, Allie states that “I do whatever I can for Seton Youth Shelters. We’re a family and I’m so thankful for them. They made me the person I am.”
“Allie has endeared herself to all of us at Seton Youth Shelters and serves as a role model for the youth of Hampton Roads,” said David Mount, Director of YOP.
My life has come a long way since last year. Remembering over the past years, I was high and always into partying with my so called “friends”… doing drugs that people probably couldn’t even imagine. See, my mother was murdered right in front of me at age 12 in New York City. It was a real tragic thing to me, and still haunts me to this day. I hated life after that, because it was up to my brother to raise me and provide for all of us.
I moved to Virginia Beach when I was about 14, thanks to my uncle. He wasn’t the best role model, but New York Child Protective Services was considering putting me in a foster home because I was out of control. My uncle introduced me to selling marijuana, and I saw nothing but dollar signs. He didn’t care what I did, or where I was. He really didn’t even seem to want me, and there were times I was on the street, because my uncle and I would fight. I didn’t really know where else to go. I’d stay at the 15th Street Pier, or in the woods. It didn’t matter to me really, because I didn’t care about myself. I was so messed up that I didn’t care what was going on.
One day, I was in school and I was doped out of my mind. I got into a big fight and blacked out. But the icing on the cake was when I stabbed my Assistant Principal with a pencil. I was sentenced to five years in a Juvenile Correctional Facility, and got out on good behavior when I was 17 (after serving three and a half years of the five). I went back to my uncle’s house, but he really didn’t want me, so moved onto the streets. At age 18, I had no job, so I started selling dope again… and then started using again, too. I did find some part time working at concerts sometimes, which led to another big wake-up moment for me. I was so high once, I thought I could fly, and jumped off the scaffolding. Well, I obviously can’t fly, and that’s when it all became REAL. I lost my front teeth from the fall, and looked horrible. I then started going to the Crow’s Next off 18th Street. It was kind of a strange place to me at first, but I figured at least I can get food out of the deal. I did know a couple of people who went to the Crow’s Next. It was strange, because I would see all of these people that seemed like they actually cared about the kids there… in my life, I’ve never seen caring people. I really didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t care to. But after a while, I opened up because I realized that Seton Youth Shelters helps youth who are in crisis. I was scared I was going to follow my past, and get locked up again.
I decided to talk to a Street Outreach Programs (SOP) Staff, Chris, and asked him to help me get back on track. I liked talking to Chris, and Later Curtis, another SOP counselor – they actually listened to me. They didn’t force or demand anything of me. Most of the staff could relate to my issues, my emotions, my problems. All I really needed was someone to listen.Curtis and I worked out a plan to help me keep moving forward, and get off the streets. He helped me sign up for food stamps, connected me to the Adult Learning Center, helped me fill out my financial aid packet for school, and connected me to another organization that helped me deal with my dental problems. I have now earned my GED and moved forward with attending Tidewater Community College. I recently received my temporary teeth, and I look totally different.
I feel if it wasn’t for the support of Curtis, and the SOP Team, I would not have been motivated enough to ever go this far. With school always on my mind, I’m able to stay away from drugs and alcohol. Now, there’s hope. In my opinion, this has been my “rehab.” It means a lot to me that there is a SOP Team out there that will help you, won’t criticize you, won’t force you or scowl down on you… because it is up to you, if you really want to change.
I am currently staying at Seton Youth Shelters and want to give my support for the Street Outreach Program and Shelter. I found myself homeless and on the street. Staff from your Street Outreach Program met with me and got me off the street. While I have been staying at Seton Youth Shelters, I have been able to begin repairing my relationship with my Dad. The staff here helped me in many ways. I was able to get a job and I am being helped with finding means of housing and opportunities to enroll in the local community college.
I was also able to join the Street Outreach Team and talk to a group of kids about life. I shared some things about my life, some of the poor decisions I made and their consequences. Helping with Street Outreach and talking to the other kids made me keep wanting to do for others.
When I was on my own, I had nowhere to stay. I wasn’t allowed to come back home. Mr. David came to talk to me. When we talked I told him I wanted to live differently, to make something out of myself. He offered the help of Seton Youth Shelters and a way for me to help myself. I am very thankful for the Street Outreach Program and the chance to turn my life around while staying at the shelter.
In November 2013, I became homeless. I received a phone call from Curtis and Sharena from Seton Youth Shelters’ Street Outreach Team, and they arranged to meet me that same day. They interviewed me and explained the rules and eligibility for Cassady House, a soon-to-be added transitional housing service. They asked me if I was okay with that, and I replied, ‘Yes, I am.’ Shortly after that, I met LeTonya, also from Street Outreach. I told her I had two job interviews and LeTonya came all the way out after work hours just to give me bus passes so I could get to the interviews. I got one job while waiting for the Cassady House to open up. I was staying here and there before the holidays, and then had to go to New Jersey for an emergency. The night I returned was the coldest night of the year so far, and I had phoned LeTonya to update her and to let her know I still was homeless, spent the night in a bus station, and still wanted to come to the Cassady House. They picked me up from the bus station on January 6, 2014, and brought me into Cassady House. That’s where I met Mr. David for the first time.”
“The love and support I got from them is indescribable. SOP Staff and Ms. Beslow, Virginia Job Corps Recruiting Center, worked tirelessly, helping me complete my application and get accepted. Seton Youth Shelters helped me with many personal needs to get ready for Job Corps. That’s how I met Kira Green, Owner, VIP Hair Studios, who helped me select a hairstyle that would be professional and easy to keep while in Job Corps. I really needed a lot of help and SOP Staff really came through for me.”
“I’m just truly honored to be a part of a major support team. They didn’t know my struggle, but they made sure they helped me make it and reach my goals. If I could describe Seton Youth Shelters in one word, I would say it’s, ‘Indescribable!’ Life is what you make it, and the Street Outreach Program Staff are here to help you.”