Three months after hearing through Incarnation Catholic Church about the volunteer opportunity, the teenagers have become a mainstay at the winter shelter, organizing donated clothing, preparing food and serving up meals.
There are no prodding parents — Jazmine, Aundria and Brandon are three of six siblings being raised by their grandmother. And they often have to ride the bus to make it to the armory, sometimes as frequently as three times a week.
“I manage, just like with everything else,” said Jazmine, a senior at Hoover High School. “I go to school, I’ll come home, grab something to eat and come here. And when I go back home I will study for a few hours. My grandma has taught us to manage, so I manage. I like doing this, so I make it a point to come whenever I can.”
When they first visited the regional shelter, the teenagers said they carried with them a bit a fear and plenty of misconceptions, among them that all homeless individuals are uneducated and addicted to drugs. But shelter guests have opened up to them, sharing stories of broken families, minimum-wage jobs and unemployment.
They were most shocked to see young people among those sleeping at the shelter.
“It is not just about drugs, that is not why some of the people are here... It could happen to anyone,” said Brandon, a seventh-grader at Toll Middle School.
Jazmine, Aundria and Brandon are self-starters, Livesey said. They always look out for the guests with limited mobility, bringing them plates of food. And Brandon rustled up a three-level wheeled cart and instituted a new system for distributing bottled juices and canned sodas, Livesey said.