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Abandoned at birth by his mother, Shawn* grew up in the foster care system from infancy. But at age eight, life took a different turn for Shawn as he was adopted by a permanent family. Being a success of the foster care and adoption systems seems like it would be the end of the story, where Shawn would live happily ever after.

However, in his early teens, Shawn came to realize that he was gay. Try as he might to hide this from his adoptive parents, they found out when they overheard one of his phone conversations with a friend. Not knowing how to handle the situation, the family had reached a crisis point.

Shawn described the months after coming out as difficult. He felt alone and isolated as his parents attempted to grasp the reality of the situation. After one conversation with his father and uncle, he knew that for his own well-being it was time to leave. Shawn made the decision to run away from home and began sofa surfing in friends’ homes.

This is when Shawn learned about Promise House, and he enrolled in the Emergency Youth Shelter Program. “Coming to Promise House has been an adventure,” Shawn said. “I have learned how to be more reliant on myself and be more of an adult.”

In addition to the basic necessities of living, Shawn was given the tools and counseling he needed to cope with the feelings of abandonment that he felt not only from his birth mother, but also from his adoptive parents. “I tried to not care,” he said. “But, that is really hard to do.” Through his own maturation, Shawn has begun to rebuild the relationship with his adoptive family, although he knows it is a process that will take time.

Shawn’s main goal right now is to graduate high school and go to college. He wants to become a veterinarian. However, a new talent emerged and was discovered while he was at Promise House that many suggest should be considered as a possible career path. He has a talent for cooking.

On the weekends, when the staff cook was not at the shelter, Shawn took on the role to the delight of the other shelter residents. He focused on healthy cooking and admitted that breakfast was his favorite meal to cook. “I like making smoothies,” he said. “But, I don’t usually follow a recipe because I like to mix the flavors until they all come together. I use fresh vegetables in all the smoothies, but the other residents don’t even realize it because they taste so good.”

His creativity extends beyond the kitchen as well, and recently Shawn recited one of his many poems at the shelter’s open mic night. He uses his poetry as an emotional release to cope with the struggles in his life. “My hardships have shaped me into who I am,” he said. “And I am proud of who I am.”

With this kind of attitude, Promise House is proud to have Shawn as one of our promising teens with a promising future.

*Name and picture changed to protect client privacy.

Love’s Mirage
I’m looking at it but yet cannot see it,
Touching it but yet cannot feel it,
It’s right under my nose but yet I cannot smell it.

It’s there but yet is not there
I know what it looks like, yet how would I know, I cannot see it.
I know what it feels like, yet how would I know, I cannot feel it.
I know what it smells like, yet how would I know, I cannot smell it.

Want to know how I know what it looks like?
I’ve seen it.
Want to know how I know what it feels like?
I’ve felt it.
Want to know how I know what it smells like?
I’ve smelled it.

Though I wish I could use present tense, I cannot.

Though I know what it looks like, I cannot see it anymore.
Though I know what is feels like, I cannot feel it anymore.
And though I know what it smells like, I cannot smell it anymore.

Once upon a time, the only way I can put it.
The senses I once had, gone.

What’s there to live for?
The hope of one day receiving my senses back.
Until then, I will reside in this cold numb body of mine.
Hoping that one day I will be freed, able to experience the joy of love once again.
But until then, I will steadily peer into what seems to be love
But is really “Love’s Mirage.”