Spectrum Youth & Family Services’ announcement of the organization’s plan to open a Drop-In Center in St. Albans brought tears to my eyes.

You see, growing up in St. Albans, I was one of “those” kids. In part due to a dysfunctional home environment and partially because of my behavioral issues as an adolescent, I ended up homeless at nineteen. When I literally had nowhere to go, St. Albans had little to offer in return. Through a referral, I was told about Spectrum’s shelter in the “big city” of Burlington.

When I arrived on the doorstep of the Drop-In, I had just a backpack of clothes: no money and few friends or family who cared to know where I was. I did not have a high school diploma or a job.

When I tentatively walked into the center, I was greeted warmly by staff. They showed me around the space, offering me toiletries, a shower, clothing, and a warm lunch.

When it was clear I was in need of shelter, I was immediately connected with a case manager who handed me job applications and directed me to VT Adult Learning to sign up for the GED test. I took my first college course at CCV while living in their shelter. I now have my bachelor’s degree.

Spectrum’s services go beyond meeting basic needs. Spectrum catches the kids who fall through the cracks and provides the foundation for youth to move beyond surviving toward thriving. Not only did Spectrum give me shelter, but they also gave me hope.

The staff held my story without bearing judgment against me. Instead, they offered a safe and supportive place for me to state my truth while also encouraging me to pursue better options despite my past obstacles. I formed lifelong friendships during my time at Spectrum. I found a sense of community and caring under Spectrum’s roof that I had never experienced at any other community agency.

With an intimate understanding of the impact Spectrum can have on one’s life, I can only hope the Drop-In Center will be welcomed by the St. Albans community for the safe haven it can be to youth in crisis.

My hope is that the Drop-In is so successful that Spectrum is eventually able to expand to offer the full array of services which the youth in St. Albans desperately need. After everything Spectrum gave to me, it is my turn to offer hope and encouragement to the agency which, by no exaggeration, saved my life.

Faith Foley resides in Winooski and works at the Burlington Housing Authority. She is a COSA volunteer and volunteers on the Board of Directors for Spectrum Youth and Family Services.

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