SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah teenager found herself homeless for a short time, before she found a new type of family.
Alex, 18, sounds like your typical college freshman, with six roommates who have become her best friends.
"I'm actually going to the university. This house, I've made my lifelong friends here already."
But this is no coed dorm — it's a transition home for troubled teens. Run by Volunteers of America, this home nestled in a Sugarhouse neighborhood is a safe haven for children who might end up on the street — or girls like Alex who have already been there.
"Many of them have had challenges before, why they've needed our help," said Zach Bale, a social worker and vice president of the Utah chapter of Volunteers of America. "Youth that landed on the street, youth that have fled home because of violence, parents who have had a hard time as well and it might be something else going on in their life that makes parenting not the first priority."
For Alex, a dispute with her grandma left her kicked out of her house and living in her car or with friends.
"I was pretty much couch surfing for two months," Alex said. "It was scary out there. I felt hopeless. I felt like there was nothing else in this world for me and honestly I felt depressed."
But then a friend recommended the transition home, an 18-month program open to girls 16 to 19 years old. Case workers help them go to school, get jobs, and get back on their feet — for free.
"We really seek to be that surrogate parent in that time of transition," Bale said.
For Alex, the home met her physical needs as well as her emotional ones.
"I didn't know how to live independently. I had to depend on everybody. Moving here it just kind of helped me have that independent mindset, grow up a little bit," Alex said. "Coming here, it was a big change for me because I feel the love that I desired. My roommates are more of a family to me than anything."
If you would like to find out more information about Volunteer of America's transition home or other services they offer, go to www.voaut.org.