COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Devante Vick spent much of his life living in cars, bouncing between homeless shelters and agonizing over where his next meal would come from.
“Being homeless definitely isn’t ideal,” said Vick, who is 22 years old and has experienced on-and-off homelessness and housing instability since he was a child. “It’s hard to get food. No showers. Not great.”
While staying at Springs Rescue Mission — Colorado Springs’ largest homeless shelter — Vick met two outreach workers from The Place, the city’s youth homeless shelter.
“At first, I was like ‘what do these people want,’” Vick remembered. But after the workers explained resources available to him as an unhoused person under 25, Vick decided to give their programs a chance. He visited The Place’s drop-in resource center on the south side of Colorado Springs, picked up warm clothes and put his name on a list for housing support.
One year later, Vick has his own apartment and a job serving other unhoused youth as a youth advocate at The Place. Vick now helps others the way street outreach workers helped him. Doing so has given his life a deeper purpose, he said.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before anywhere until I discovered this place. It was mind blowing,” Vick said. “A lot of youth would be lost without this place.”
Vick moved to Colorado Springs in 2021 to join his sister, Krystal Vick, who was also unhoused at the time. The two lived out of a shared van, which they said was difficult but made them closer as siblings.
“It definitely was challenging at times, we definitely went through a lot,” Krystal said. “But that’s my sibling and I’m always going to be there for him.”
Krystal said they parked their van in empty parking lots, parks and anywhere else they thought they could avoid police, as she believed officers harassed unhoused folks even if there was no evidence of criminal activity.
“It was annoying, they were always looking for trouble,” Krystal said. “They didn’t find it but it was invasive because we were literally just trying to sleep and survive and they’re trying to target us.”
Six months ago, Krystal moved into Working Fusion at Mill Street, a community of tiny homes for at-risk youth just south of Downtown Colorado Springs. The homes are furnished with essentials and any youth who eventually move into market-rate housing can take everything from their tiny home with them.
The homes are also built as a community, with a tetherball post and a “living room” home equipped with games, a television and a space for therapy appointments. Residents at Working Fusion at Mill Street are encouraged to rely on each other for friendship and support.
“The people here provide such good support,” Krystal said. “We’re all very close to each other.”
Devante Vick said his life has often felt like a pendulum swing. He’s had jobs where he earned several thousand dollars a month, and periods of unemployment and poverty leading to homelessness. His hopes for his future are to live a life of stability, with a reliable vehicle, steady housing and a fulfilling job.
“My whole life has been pretty up and down. I’m used to bad and good, so I see it all as part of the journey,” Devante said. “Now, I basically just want to get stable and comfortable. No more ups and downs.”
Alison Berg is a reporter for Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org.