According to Florida Department of Education, children and youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence are considered homeless. Talbot House Ministries’ youngest client, Santiago, faced this exact predicament. After experiencing transitional homelessness as a teenager, Santiago’s school counselor referred him to Talbot House Ministries. Living with family was important to Santiago. However, the meaning of family would change for him as he learned to accept help from others. Santiago struggled with anger and sadness when he first arrived at Talbot House. Through mentorship and various support services, he found a support system that over time would give him much more than he ever imagined possible.

The transition was not an easy one, nor was getting to school on a daily basis. Santiago faced serious issues simply getting transportation to school. Typically, his day would begin at 3:30 a.m., getting dressed in order to leave by 4:40 a.m. The bus would pick him up at 5:05 a.m. and take him to Lakeland High School, where he then transferred to a second school bus to Winter Haven High School to begin his school day. And this was just the morning route! His evening route included three different transfer stops, bringing him back Talbot House at 6:00 p.m. Then, Santiago would help serve dinner to others, enjoy his own dinner, and complete his homework. This incredible daily routine lasted until COVID-19 caused school to become virtual.

Despite his circumstances, Santiago was determined to succeed. With the help of case management, Solutions employment staff, his fellow residents, and Dr. Reddout, Santiago was able to achieve his goal of graduating high school as part of the class of 2020!

In five months, Santiago’s attitude and outlook have completely turned around. He is grateful for the new support system of mentors and friends that he now considers family, but knows that he won’t be homeless much longer. He hopes to soon join the Homeland Security Job Corps in Kentucky, and is taking classes at Talbot House to achieve that goal.

Santiago has realized that a “home” is anywhere you have a support system with people willing to help you become the best you can be!
In his own words, “It is important for those in the journey to have support, various forms of wisdom, and experiences that will offer hope and the idea that they too can do it!” Join us in congratulating Santiago and wishing him the best in his next steps!

This beautiful picture was taken by Nicholas Samways.