Andre Cole was a streetwise, tough-talking Brooklyn kid when his mother drove him to Dayton in 2006 for what he thought would be a vacation to visit his dad.
“I had no idea she was going to dump me here,” he recalled.
Cole, now 21, landed at Daybreak, the area’s only teen shelter for homeless teens and runaways. After two years in the program, he is now established in his own apartment through the nonprofit’s independent living program.
Daybreak provides a safe haven for people like Cole, who, in a down economy, are coming through the agency’s doors in record numbers.
Since moving to its spacious building at 605 S. Patterson Blvd. three years ago, Daybreak has had a 72 percent increase in occupancy rates, a 118 percent increase in the average length of stay, and a 102 percent increase in the number of clients 18 and older seeking help.
In addition to its shelter and housing programs, which served about 500 people last year, the agency contacted another 2,000 youths on the street, helping them find housing or, in some cases, get a meal.
For those in independent living, the transition from homelessness doesn’t happen overnight. “We know that the longer shelter stay works better for youth,” said Daybreak CEO Linda Kramer.
During the past year, the Dayton Daily News has followed a number of Daybreak clients as they move in and out of the shelter — in most cases, the only stable environment they’ve ever had.
Success, even when it comes, is not without setbacks. Before finally getting a passing grade on the Ohio Graduation Test, Cole almost gave up after failing the test three times, including twice by a mere four points.
“Everybody kept telling me, ‘Keep it up, keep it up, keep it up,’ ” he said. “It’s one of the biggest things in my life that I never thought would happen.”
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2209