Two years ago, Slone found himself in trouble and was placed into a correctional facility. Slone’s childhood had been chaotic and filled with instability as his mother, a hard-working single mom, tried her best to raise him and his brother. However, stints of homelessness and temporary living arrangements resulted in Slone experimenting with drugs and eventually failing in school.
After successfully completing his correctional program, Slone was placed into the Youth Homes’ Shirley Miller Attention Home for four months. During this time, Slone thought a lot about what his life had been like up to this point, and what he would like to do in the future. When it came time to discuss the options for him, Slone asked his parole officer if he could be placed at the Youth Homes’ Tom Roy Youth Guidance Home.
Slone has been at the Tom Roy Youth Guidance Home since July. The home is an eight-bed group home where teenagers, ages 16-18, live and receive the care, guidance, and support they need to help them prepare for life on their own. The home sits in front of the farm in a rural part of Missoula.
The North Avenue Youth Farm was created to give teenagers in care at Youth Homes the opportunity for meaningful work. Under the leadership of Garden City Harvest Farm Manager, Cori Ash, the land was transformed from a bare lot of weeds and rocks to a fully functioning 2/3 of an acre farm that provides jobs, volunteer opportunities, and food for the Youth Homes and three other nonprofits in the Missoula community.
For Slone, the summer was spent doing everything it takes to make a farm run. Slone even learned to drive a tractor. “I love weeding, harvesting, moving pipes and driving the tractor,” Slone said. “I’ve learned how to make things grow, how to harvest, and why things die. “
Slone said working at the farm has taught him what it means to work hard. He said he saw the kids who tried hard and the ones who didn’t and that it helped him recognize why he wanted to be a good worker.
With the winter season approaching, life at the farm is winding down. Slone will turn 18 this spring and will have earned his GED. He would like to attend a farming apprentice school in Santa Cruz, CA, and then return to Montana so he can help people who have had similar experiences. “I want to start a farming program for homeless people,” Slone said.
Slone spent the summer working with his hands, his head, and by the end of the season, with his heart. He formed relationships with those he worked with and if he chooses, he has a support system in these people for the rest of his life. Slone also has a path he hopes to follow—one that starts by digging in the earth, planting a seed, and helping it grow.
Over the years, Youth Homes has developed a diverse and community representative board, which oversees seven group homes and programs in foster care, kinship, adoption, and family support as well as wilderness treatment and a Learning Lab located in the public schools. Youth Homes has homes and offices in Missoula, Kalispell, Polson, Ronan, Hamilton and Helena.
Our kids are as young as three and as old as 18. They have experienced domestic violence. Their dads are not in their lives. They are abused. They are neglected. They have been exploited. They are homeless. They are unsafe at home. They have fled. They have been involved with child protection. They have broken laws. They are on probation. They have acted out. They have run. They have emotional challenges. They are sad. They have attempted suicides. They are angry. They lie. They are honest about their pain. They are running from it. They do not belong. But they all have hope.
The Dan Fox Family Care Program offers Foster Care and Adoption as well as in-home Family Support Services. The children we serve are ages 2-18 years of age and are referred, mostly, from child welfare workers, mental health case managers and youth corrections workers.
InnerRoads, our Wilderness Therapy Program, provides quality, affordable wilderness therapy to at-risk teens and their families. Our six week intervention program offers therapeutic wilderness and community programming with long term aftercare support for teens ages 14-17.
Every day Youth Homes cares for 150 children through its group homes, shelters, family care, and wilderness treatment programs. Since its founding in 1971, Youth Homes has served over 9,500 children.
Youth Homes, PO Box 7616, Missoula, MT 59807, (406) 721-2704