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Oct 01, 2014

Youth Voices – In Their Own Words

Last year our Oak Grove shelter in Vancouver, Washington served 342 youth between the ages of 12 and 17. That’s 342 times our shelter was the only safe place for these youth, providing them refuge from the streets. One anonymous youth wrote this essay for other youth coming to Oak Grove. They allowed us to share it here.

In need of help

For all who don’t know who I am well I am a foster kid just like you! I am 16 and my biological mother is a drug addict and I have been in and out of foster care but the 3 years I've been in 11 different homes this past year, it’s not fun at all to be moving every other day it really isn't.

So listen I know how you feel, you feel upset, angry, hurt, alone, scared, mad, even wanting to die. I know I feel all of those everyday but wanting to die isn't gonna solve your problems. I learned that the hard way and I know when people will tell you that ‘it’s going to be okay’ or ‘it’s gonna get better’ You think or say ‘No it's not you don’t know me or my life’ but hey it just might.

Let people help you and parent you, don’t fight it, it will only bring you more trouble and less people in your life.

I’m saying this because I've done this. I know how hard it is for some of you who have parents who have either abandoned you or have used drugs or even did both. I know how you feel ‘Why doesn't my parent or parents care about me?!’

You may love and or hate the State for taking you away from that situation but you are better off with the State then getting hurt every day and night.

I’m always telling the state people and my social worker I hate them and they don’t know me but what they've read in my file and that I can’t wait till they’re out of my life but they are just looking out for me.

You may not like it but take advantage of it. Life is what you make of it, you can choose to stay and make it the best or you can run and move from place to place.

But in the end it’s your life you can choose whether or not to get back up.

These things you should always remember in life are:

1.  You are Beautiful / Handsome

2.  You are smart and intelligent

3.  ‘Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game’

4.  You can be anything you wanna be if you put your mind to it

5.  Be better than your parents or where you came from!

6.  Love YOURSELF!

Lastly, Be a kid enjoy it while it lasts, don’t grow up so fast and be grown so enjoy it while it lasts cause I didn’t but good luck, hope this helped you.


Dec 12, 2018
Visit The Sharing Tree at Washington Square Mall & Look for Janus Youth With the Red Dot on Gift Tag

The Sharing Tree at Washington Square Mall is a great way to make sure each of our youth has a gift to open on Christmas morning. Just pick an ornament from the tree located in the Nordstrom wing, near Williams-Sonoma and purchase the item listed on the tag. These gifts are distributed to Janus and eight other charities throughout the Portland metro area. Each year, more than 4,500 gifts are given to those in need through the Washington Square Sharing Tree. 

Nov 28, 2018
Ending Youth Homelessness

Every night, our downtown Portland shelters are home to youth ages 16-24 who have no other place to go. Youth often line up outside the door at 8:30 pm, hoping to get a bed and a meal for the night. Not everyone gets in. With a limit of 60 beds, the shelter can only accommodate 60 youth each night. During the winter months, there are an additional 10 beds. This year alone, the shelters housed and fed over 500 youth. While our shelters are running at full capacity and our street outreach workers are out every night providing warm clothing and crisis-intervention services, there are some positive shifts affecting the numbers and demographics of homeless youth in Multnomah County.

Nov 26, 2018
​Employee Spotlight—Gina McConnell

Gina knows what it feels like to run away. She did it at age 12 to avoid abuse at home, but like so many youth on the street, she quickly became a target for sex trafficking. After many years “in the life,” she spent time in prison where she befriended a person who said to her when she was released, “I need you to go out there and be our voice.” This was a pivotal moment for Gina and from that point on, she was committed to helping youth who have experienced similar trauma as she did. Today she works in the Cowlitz County Youth Services Program as a case manager for sexually-exploited youth. We talked to Gina to find out how her experiences has prepared her for this role.

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