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Work begins on project helping homeless young people - KOAM TV 7

Work begins on project helping homeless young people

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Joplin's Ozark Center says each year about 25,000 youths age out of the nation's foster system.  Of that number about 25% become homeless.

A new housing project, the only one of its kind in Missouri, is headed by Ozark Center and aims at helping homeless young people get back on their feet.

The Ozark Center already has a housing unit meant to help these young people, but another unit is being built.

We talked with a graduate of the program, Cody Galbraith, 22, and he says his life is proof the project works.

Galbraith still remembers going from homeless to having a roof over his head.

"I didn't really know what to think," Galbraith tells us.  "I sat on the couch for a long time, before I went into the bedroom, and it was actually like it wasn't real."

Galbraith's past may seem unreal, to some.

He suffers from severe anxiety.

Galbraith says he was kicked out of his parent's home two weeks before his 17th birthday.

"Many of these kids couch surf, as they call it and we've learned to call it, where they go from home to home of friends of families they've become involved with, sometimes, total strangers, which is really not safe," says Vicky Mieseler of Ozark Center.

"I was losing a lot of weight, living in a tent," says Galbraith.  "My doctor was growing concerned about what was going on.  He wasn't happy about that.  So he put me on a waiting list for pre-adult transitional housing."

In the meantime, Galbriath gave up hope.

"I wasn't able to hold a job, I would get real upset at work and cry," says Galbraith.  "In January of 2010, I guess I attempted a suicide and I wandered in the street and was hit by two motor vehicles."

But, soon after he was accepted into Joplin's Ozark Center pre-adult transitional housing.

"The goal is to give them the tools - the tools they need to live in an adult society," says Mieseler.

Galbraith now lives in Arkansas using what he learned at Ozark to budget his social security income.

Galbraith has also learned he has a purpose in life.

"To set a good example, to get people closer to something they forgot," Galbraith says.

Ozark breaks ground on another housing building that will hold another eight units for people ages 17 to 22.

Galbraith knows for others soon to live here the road won't always be easy but will be worthwhile.

"You shouldn't judge people based on what they look like because you don't know where they've been and this place gave me a family, and it gave me hope from wanting to leave the planet," says Galbraith.

The new unit is scheduled to open in nine months.

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