When Justin was only 2 years old, the police came knocking on the door, investigating why his parents had not been sending his older sister to school. Instead, they found his parents, high on methamphetamine and dealing drugs. This began Justin’s journey through the foster care system.

Justin was lucky. He was eventually adopted into a loving family, but still struggled with his past and had a hard time trusting and connecting to other people. He was often withdrawn and eventually started using drugs and alcohol. Justin couldn’t keep a job because of his drug and alcohol use, and his father got laid off from work so the family was struggling financially. So, at age 16, Justin moved out of his house to a life of homelessness, sleeping on the couches of friends and family. He first met Epworth’s Street Outreach staff during one of his stays at a homeless youth shelter. He would later be so grateful for this encounter with Epworth!

Justin remained homeless until his biological mother contacted him when he was 18 years old, asking him to come stay with her in California, promising that she had gotten her life together. It was not long after he arrived that he realized things were not as his mother had promised. Justin came home one night to find his mother huddled over the stove, smoking meth. He knew he had to leave. His first call was to the Epworth staff member he had encountered before at the youth shelter. She was able to connect him with an agency that would fund his transportation back to St. Louis.

“My Epworth caseworker was the first person to really help me,” stated Justin.

Once back in St. Louis, Street Outreach staff helped Justin find a place to stay. Justin then started attending life skills classes at Epworth’s Drop-In Center. These classes helped him learn critical job skills.

Justin also worked on a vision board, answering the question, “Where do you want to be in 5 years?”

Justin had to think about this but a week later had his list for his board: 1) wear a suit to work; 2) have a reliable car; 3) have an apartment of his own; 4) work at a job with a salary; 5) have a college degree. The staff at Epworth helped Justin create a plan to make these goals a reality. They helped him find a position with the Panera Cares program, where he learned how to work all aspects of the store operations at St. Louis Bread Co. He needed transportation for his first week of work and the Epworth staff drove him every morning to ensure he was on time. He graduated from the program and has been working at St. Louis Bread Co. for over a year. With help from his Epworth appointed mentor, Mike, Justin enrolled at Rankin Technical College and currently has a 3.75 GPA, making the President’s List. Justin is well on his way to achieving his goals.

Kids like Justin need a chance to succeed. A trusted adult being there at the right time with the right tools makes a world of difference. Donors like you helped to provide Justin with a person to call when he needed help, with a mentor to guide him along a better path, assistance in making a plan for the future, and the positive support needed to find work, school, and housing.

Please help Epworth help the next young man or woman move towards self-sufficiency. Your gift will change a life!