It's not uncommon for teens to arrive at the Westhaven Youth Shelter carrying their baggage of indifference. "Here we go again," 15-year-old Belair (last names of youth are withheld for their protection) remembers thinking when he arrived at the Cleveland shelter. For teens like him, shuffled from place to place, it was just another stop on the road to an uncertain future.
After a week, Belair noticed something different.
"The staff is nicer," he said. "They try to relate to you. It's not just a job. ... They're the best mentors I've encountered."
Westhaven is a 24-hour emergency shelter for homeless and abused teens in northeast Ohio. It's administered by Support to At-Risk Teens Inc., which is part of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, a social ministry organization affiliated with the ELCA. Services are free. Last year, 187 youth spent 2,124 nights at the shelter.
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