Resilient young father and future Navy man, Christopher Bates, is standing in the backyard of Our House, BCFS Health and Human Services’ transitional living home for young men in Abilene, as he reminisces on his personal journey the past few years. It has been a rocky road, but it led him to this place of refuge – to a crossroad where he can now say he’s hopeful for his future.
Both Chris’ parents have passed away, and he has several brothers and sisters across central Texas he doesn’t see often. His mother died of leukemia when he was just 2 years old.
“Some things went on with my sister and uncle, so I contacted CPS to tell them about it,” Chris says. “I moved around to different family members and ended up with my grandfather. But when his wife passed away he remarried and didn’t choose to take me in. So my grandfather put me in foster care.”
After spending several years in foster care he moved in with his sister in a nearby town, but moved out after some family disagreements. He ended up in
Abilene, Texas without a roof over his head or any prospects. He was just 19 years old.
Chris lived on the streets for months. “Being homeless was frightening at first. But after a little while other homeless people helped me out, taught me how to survive, and took me places that offered free meals,” Chris says. “I stayed at the Salvation Army sometimes, until I got into Our House with BCFS.”
The local BCFS transition center, which serves youth like Chris struggling with homelessness and other issues, helped Chris plug into benefits available to him through the state’s “aftercare” program that serves youth who spent time in foster care. According to Chris, the program helps youth get into college, pay rent, and buy gasoline, food and cell phone minutes.
Chris began working with a BCFS case manager to apply for Our House residency and to tap into his aftercare benefits. After a background check, drug screening and interview, BCFS welcomed Chris into Our House, where he has now lived for a little over a year.
“Moving into Our House was a relief. I didn’t know what to expect at first. I learned quickly it was very structured. The longer I stayed, the more I learned why it’s that way. It really helped me because they fixated on me getting a job and focusing on my goals, both long-term and short-term.
It changed my mindset. I learned this isn’t just a house, it’s a program that wants to help me.”
Today, Chris works at a local restaurant and his “rent” payments to Our House actually go into a savings account he’ll use to get his own apartment soon.
“Following the rules and chore list at Our House helps me so when I get out on my own, I’ll be more independent,” says Chris. “They constantly remind you when rent is due and how important it is to pay on time. I have to prepare some of my own meals and clean my room. I don’t really need to be told to do those things because I’ve been here so long now I just do it out of habit.”
BCFS case managers at the transition center have helped Chris apply to get into the Navy. Chris says he hopes the Navy will help him support his 2-year-old daughter Lexi, and even help pay for her college tuition when she’s older.
Our House is a transitional living home operated by BCFS Health and Human Services for young men ages 18 to 23 struggling with homelessness in Abilene, Texas. BCFS helps each young man find a job, save money, and make a plan to turn their life around. Rather than pay rent in a traditional sense, residents are required to save money in a fund set aside to get their own apartment. The young men are required to take good care of the facilities by divvying up daily and weekly chores on a chore board.
Learn more at DiscoverBCFS.net/OurHouse.