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26-year-old Curtis learns ‘youth advocacy’ with La Casa Norte

Fri, Jun 13, 2014



Curtis, 26, came to La Casa Norte nine years ago, after his mother died of a heart attack at age 39. He was angry and grieving and he had to get away. He lied his way into a psych ward but he realized he wasn’t supposed to be there, either, because he wasn’t thinking about suicide.

Curtis spent five weeks in LaCasa Norte’s Solid Ground supportive housing before deciding he should be on his own. He finished his GED and he now lives in one of its permanent supportive housing units. He does a lot of volunteering and gets cash jobs as a homemaker/decorator, particularly for older people who can’t do their homes the way they once did. He can see this job as short-term or long-term, in addition to a music career. He is a singer who has performed at La Casa Norte and at his church on the far South Side, which has led him to focus on gospel. Church members also give him rides there.

Curtis also considers himself a resourceful person. “People will think ‘this won’t work’ but I can make it work.”

And he could see himself as a youth advocator.

“I work with kids very well. I lot of people don’t have patience with kids, however young. I babysit. I have been there. I communicate with them. It depends on what they are going through, what they have problems with. Say for instance, they have a problem with homework and can’t communicate with their teacher. A lot of teachers want kids to reach out but a lot of kids don’t have confidence.”

Ministry, he said, shouldn’t be inside the church, but outside because a lot of people can’t get to where the resources are offered, even though they need clothing, food and someone to talk to.

“Even people on the street feel they went through so much they don’t want people to talk to them. They need people to say, ‘this is not the way you should be, you should let somebody help you,’ just believe they can change.”

Why can’t they change?

“Something happened in their life that they can’t let go, some kind of guilt, rejection. A lot of people feel they can’t deal with that guilt or shame….Some people might not want you to know what they went through. You ask questions around that and try to get to the root of the conversation and then you can help them.”
They don’t want you to think they’re hopeless?

“Exactly. Every homeless person wants someone to reach out. You got to have a lot of patience and a lot of love.”

Suzanne Hanney
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief


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