Helping Homeless Teens Become Independent

When Rhetta Grey completed her first art show last month, it was a big step for more than just her career as an artist. Just over one year ago, Grey found herself homeless and making it as an artist was one of the last things on her mind.

Living in over a dozen different places in two years, Grey was struggling to finish high school and moving to another temporary place looked like the only option.

“I was not going to try to go to high school and live in a shelter,” Grey said.

Instead, Grey found Volunteers of America’s Bannock Youth Center. Entering the Bannock Youth Center program at 19-years-old, she met a case manager who helped her finally find a permanent place of her own to call home.

Like all teens and young adults in Bannock Youth Center’s housing programs, Grey received assistance with her rent, committed to attend weekly life skills classes at the center, and began regularly meet with her case manager.

“Our goal is not just to house homeless youth but to also help them build those life skills to sustain independent living long term,” Shehila Stephens, Project Manager at Volunteers of America’s Bannock Youth Center, said.

Having a permanent place to call home changed everything for Grey. In her new apartment, Grey says she is finally in a place where she is not constantly worried about being kicked out and can focus on the accomplishing her goals.

“[The program] made me more motivated to go out and look into college. I feel like I was capable of doing things I didn’t think I could. I have definitely learned a lot,” Grey said.

Now 13 months into the program, Rhetta graduated high school in January and is working to build a future in something she is truly passionate about, art.

“It’s a meditative thing. It’s like I get to vent on paper,” Grey said.

An artist practically from birth, Grey completed her first art show last month hosted by RAW: Natural Born Artists. RAW is a traveling show that came through Denver in late March and features artist of all mediums who are in the first 10 years of their career. Being one of the artists selected for the prestigious and exclusive RAW show was a big step for Grey, she said.

Grey is now looking into art scholarships and says she is grateful to the people who encouraged her at Bannock.

“Everyone here seems to really care about what they do. It is not just a job for them, and that is a big deal,” Grey said.