It’s dark, late, and cold. Of course it’s cold. This is Alaska and it’s the middle of winter. The evening temperatures are more than 30 degrees below zero—and dropping. And the boy was going outside to sleep in a car.
That scene is what broke Michelle Overstreet. Then a teacher at a high school in Wasilla, Alaska, Overstreet volunteered her time at homeless shelters to help at risk youth. The work was important, but it was never enough. Large percentages of kids are either homeless or at risk of homelessness within Wasilla and the surrounding Mat-Su Valley, so resources were always a problem. The boy—well, he was about 23 years old, Overstreet thinks, so not a boy but also not much older than one—had arrived too late that night at the shelter where Overstreet worked. There were no beds left, so he had to be turned away.
There was another shelter, workers told them. He can make it there if he drives. So Overstreet found herself handing a young man a gas card and wishing him the best of luck, sending him off to maybe drive, or maybe just sleep in the car. She couldn’t know for sure. All she knew was: This bothered her.
For weeks after, Overstreet couldn’t sleep. There has to be a better way, she thought. And the more she reflected on it, the more she realized that if there isn’t a better way available, then she had to make one.
In this episode, you’ll learn about how those sleepless nights led to the creation of MY House, an organization dedicated to providing Wasilla’s at-risk youth a path out of homelessness and into a more stable life. In just a few short years, MY House has helped hundreds of teens turn their lives around, including Brandy Kinney, who you’ll meet at the beginning of the show. The organization is also home to a successful coffee shop and clothing boutique, all staffed by formerly homeless kids. The organization also has helped launch a Task Force taking on the Mat-Su Valley’s Opioid Crisis.
Overstreet and MY House today are getting entirely different results from their work with homeless kids. Why? Because they are using entirely different tactics than the ones that used to keep her awake at night with guilt. “We’ve got to move away from the dependency model, which is, ‘I’m going to provide just what you need in this moment,’ but not ‘teach you to fish,’” Overstreet says. Tune in and find out how MY House is showing so many at-risk youth that they can escape homelessness and achieve their dreams.