After experiencing homelessness, a Lynchburg teen is back on his feet through “housing first” approach

Lynchburg & Central Virginia News

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Parker Brandt had a hard time with school since moving to Lynchburg his freshman year. Brandt moved to Lynchburg from Maryland, and says he wasn’t a very talkative person, but started meeting new people and making friends.

A few years later, Brandt achieved a major milestone in his life, by completing his degree. He told WFXR news that he was proud of his accomplishment.

“Glad and sad too, missing all the teachers I had a bond with,” said Brandt.

However, his journey was tough. In April of last year, when he was 18, he lost his home, citing a family conflict. He went to a nearby abandoned house.

“I slept in there for a couple of weeks until two cops showed up,” said Brandt.

He told WFXR News he lived with his sister for a couple of weeks until her landlord told her he couldn’t stay there anymore. For four months, he bounced from shelter to shelter. He was eventually connected with Miriam’s House in August. They helped him find a suitable apartment, cover his security deposit and first month’s rent.

“You’re thinking about safety every day, survival every day, when you’re homeless,” said Kristen Nolen, Director of Housing Services for Miriam’s House. “When we use the housing first approach and get someone back into housing like in Parker’s case, they can focus on bigger picture goals like getting a job and finishing high school.”

They also helped him with rent for a few months until he could support himself on his salary working in a hotel.

“Proud,” said Brandt in reference to becoming self-sufficient, “that I didn’t need any assistance.”

He’s now working towards a new goal.

“I was planning on like basically being a car mechanic,” he said, “fixing cars and then move my way up to trucks, boats.”

“I’m so excited for him! That’ll be a great career,” said Nolen, “so I love that he has career aspirations and he’s able to think about that and not where’s he going to sleep tonight.”

Nolen says in a typical year, they work with about 35 people under the age of 24. She also says Miriam’s House has seen an increase in the number of 17 and 18-year-olds getting kicked out of their homes during COVID.

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