Remember Kansas City's homeless youth as temperatures dip

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - As the days get colder, it's hard to imagine a child facing the elements.

It happens every day in Kansas City.  On any given night, there are 2,000 homeless youth with nowhere to go.

Synergy Services, an organization that provides services and shelter to homeless youth, holds awareness events each year called One Homeless Night.  Local high school students volunteer to sleep outside for a night, while taking donations.

The piles of clothes and care packages collected from recent events this fall will go directly to youth like Cole Kretsinger, who is staying at Synergy Services' Youth Resiliency Center.

It's a new beginning for Kretsinger.

"Just looking in the mirror every day waking up, I didn't care, really. I couldn't stand looking at myself. My face was all sunken in," he said.

At just 18-years-old, Kretsinger is a recovering meth addict and is homeless.

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"I was just bumming from place to place. I didn't have nobody. I was just hanging out with a bunch of druggies," he said.

The drugs and bad choices led Kretsinger down a dangerous path, landing him in jail and back on the streets.

The Street Outreach Services team convinced him to seek help at Synergy Services.

"The majority of the homeless youth population is not visible," Rachel Francis said, who directs the Youth Services program.

There are many more out there, like Kretsinger.  Synergy Services helped more than 500 young people ages 12 to 24.  That comes out to about 11,000 visits.

Not everyone can get emergency or temporary shelter.  Francis said they had to turn away more than 300 young people because of capacity, but they help find other shelter options.

"They could be in family crisis, kicked out from home fro a variety of reasons. Substance abuse, domestic violence. They will couch surf and pretend things are okay, and do everything they can to act like a normal teenager," Francis said.

Kretsinger hopes to find that normal in his temporary home, where he can stay for 30 days.  He has access to therapy, medical care, and his own room.

Cole Kretsinger

 

It's away from his old life, but one that he could easily fall back into.

"I could, honestly. I really could. But it would just be a relapse and I can see exactly where I'd end up again," Kretsinger said.

He has high hopes for his future.  He doesn't know what's coming next, but he says jail is not an option. He wants to repair the broken relationship with his parents. He wants to talk to other youth struggling with the same issues of peer pressure, addiction, and depression.

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"I just want to start doing good in my life," Kretsinger said.

"They're just kids," Francis said.  "They're kids who are at a crossroads in life, who have struggled, and just need support."

If you or a youth you know needs help, here are some numbers to call:

Outreach Hotline:
816-204-6747

Synergy House:
816-741-8700 (24 hours)

reStart Youth Shelter:
816-309-9048 (24 hours)

More information about programs and services can be found here

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Sarah Plake can be reached at Sarah.Plake@KSHB.com

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