The sun wouldn’t be up for hours, but with no other place to turn for help, 16-year old Douglas Roberts, his mom and two younger brothers — the youngest a toddler — emerged from a Houston Police Department squad car and made their way through a sea of sleeping homeless men to the Star of Hope Emergency Shelter.
“That memory stays with me after all these years. Those were rough days,” said Houston’s First member Douglas Roberts, now 38 and on the board of directors at Hope for Youth, an organization that spreads the gospel and gives a hand-up to urban youth, ages 11-19. Hope for Youth was founded in 1991 by Star of Hope (SOH) volunteer Wendy Dewlen, a six-year member of Houston’s First, SOH staff member Kim Hansen, and volunteers from Second Baptist Houston.
Douglas recalls that earlier that night his family had boarded a Metro bus for the shelter, but about halfway through their trip the buses stopped running. Alone on the streets of Houston with three children at 3:30a, all Douglas’ mom could think to do was call the police. Asking for help wasn’t easy. She had cashed in her New York teacher retirement pension to relocate to Houston after being offered a teaching position. When they arrived, however, the position had been given to someone else.
The family initially made their home in Alief, but after going to the Star of Hope Transitional Living Center (TLC), Douglas’ only option for finishing the semester at Hastings High School (20 miles away) was to catch the 3 a.m. Metro bus. His first stop was downtown to transfer to a second bus bound for the suburbs. He arrived at school each morning just after the tardy bell rang. “It embarrassed me to be late every day,” said Douglas. “But I had understanding teachers and administrators who helped and encouraged me. Some of them bought me bus passes.”
One Saturday morning at the TLC, Douglas opened his apartment door to Wendy, who had come to invite him to ‘Jesus N the ‘Hood,’ a Vacation Bible School-style program for older youth. “At first, I wasn’t too sure about it,” said Douglas, “but a friend said Wendy was OK, so I thought I’d try it.”
At Hope for Youth, Douglas learned what it meant to be a Christian. “Hope for Youth saved me,” said Douglas. “The Bible study introduced me to Christ. It also taught me about prayer and how to have patience with others.” Hope for Youth offers college prep and life skills programs that prepare youth for getting (and keeping) jobs. “It’s kind of like a Christian Big Brothers and Big Sisters,” said Douglas. “Since its beginning, each year anywhere from 200-500 youth have been connected with believing adult mentors. It makes all the difference in living a positive life.”
Douglas’ association with Hope for Youth led him first to become an intern, volunteering in the office while attending the University of Houston. He became a mentor and led the College Prep program after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Douglas went on to use his degree and analytical skills as a Webmaster and software developer. This year, he will rotate off the Hope for Youth Board of Directors after 10 years of service. Douglas’ desire is to continue to mentor kids who need help as he did more than 25 years ago.
“After a couple of months at the Star of Hope TLC my mom was able to move us to an apartment complex in Spring Branch,” said Douglas. “We made a fresh start.” He has never forgotten all he has been given — especially the chance to be introduced to Christ.
“Today, a lot of the kids we see are just like me,” said Douglas, who was recently baptized at Houston's First. “It’s important to volunteer and offer leadership to help them know Christ. I’ve had a lot of good people in my life. I want to be that for others.”
Interested in being a mentor? Contact Skyler Womack on the Missions Team ( Skyler.Womack@HoustonsFirst.org or 713.335.6451) to learn about local ministries with current opportunities to serve.
Learn more about Hope For Youth and how you can be a mentor to local students through their ministry at HopeForYouth.org.