Kyla was 18 and homeless. Although she had recently graduated from high school, she was having a hard time finding a place to live and spent nights cycling between friends’ couches, the Goodwill Inn and camping in a tent. That’s when youth counselor Jamie VanDuinen of Child and Family Services of Northwest Michigan began working with her.

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It was December, the temperature hovered around 20 degrees, and because she was living in a tent, Kyla needed urgent help. Throughout the two years they worked together, VanDuinen kept trying to locate resources for Kyla, who was able to keep jobs during that time. After a year and a half of having nowhere to call home, Kyla applied for and received housing through Northern Michigan Community Action Agency—and started a path to a new life.

Child and Family Services of Northwest Michigan supports the safety and well-being of children, youth, adults and families in times of crisis, challenge and life transition. From helping youth complete GEDs or access counseling to programs such as Pete’s Place, a safe haven for teens with nowhere to go, the nonprofit offers counseling, services and ongoing support that can be life-changing for kids without resources and a stable place to call home.

One of the grave challenges facing Michigan youth is suicide—it’s the second leading cause of death for those age 15 to 34. CFS provides community education and training programs to individuals and groups to help anyone become suicide-aware and provide support and intervention to those in crisis.

Sometimes, a compassionate guide or a listening ear can make a difference that is life-saving or life-changing, and donors are a crucial part of providing that support. Kyla now has a job as a caretaker at Medilodge, and she continues to work, pay rent, and plans to attend NMC and pursue becoming a certified nursing assistant. She believes that if it weren’t for the support of her youth services counselor along the way, she would have given up.

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