Thank you to Lammé and Associates.
“I would like to major in Biology, enter medical school,” said Troy Monger, a senior at Grand Junction High School (GJHS). “School is the biggest thing in my life right now. I want to be a doctor.”
Monger is wearing a blue and white-collared shirt. His hair is gelled and he looks like any regular high-schooler. He grabs a piece of paper and within seconds folds it into an intricately shaped heart.
“These can be a little hard to make,” he groans as he wrestles with the paper in his fingers, fingers that may one day stitch human bodies together. He finishes it, and a broad smile spreads across his face.
Troy Monger began his life in Durango, Colorado, and lived there until he was five. He has never met his father, who, before Monger was born, was deported to his native New Zealand for drug dealing. Since birth, Monger’s living situation has changed almost yearly, sometimes with his mother, sometimes without.
“My mom was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when she was 26,” said Monger. “And when she doesn’t work, she grows really unstable.”
Due to this instability, Monger has had to ride the waves of the symptoms of his mother’s disease his whole life.
“She’s love or hate,” he said about his mother. “She’ll go from, ‘I love you,’ one minute to, ‘I hate you.’ It just comes with the disease.”
Monger was temporarily placed into foster care due to his mother’s instability. He called her every night for several months before they moved to Teller, Colorado.
“She drank and slept a lot,” Monger said of his time in Teller. “My friend and I, when we were third-graders, would walk to the mall at midnight. We’d do whatever we want.”
They eventually moved into a house in Grand Junction.
“Then the rent was raised,” said Monger. “Mom freaked out. She just decided to move without knowing where we were going. I ended up living with a friend for almost a year. She started out staying with us, but she was drinking a lot and she would yell, “I hate you!” They kicked her out and she stayed at a hotel.”
When Monger was in seventh-grade, he and his mother moved into the Homeward Bound homeless shelter in Grand Junction.
“That’s when things started getting really unstable,” said Monger. “I didn’t have a place where I wouldn’t have to worry about listening to my mom scream and yell. With all this going on, I couldn’t do my schoolwork.”
It is for that reason, according to Monger, that a place like The House would have been a godsend.
“While I was living at the shelter, teachers at school would offer to take my clothes and wash them and let me use the showers at the school. It was really nice to have the support, and I think that’s what The House would give is a lot of support. And that’s a big need in that situation, because I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am without the support that I got.”
Eventually, details of his situation became known to counselors at the school, and it looked like the cycle Monger had been taken through his whole life would finally end when it was worked out for him to move in with his relatives in Montrose.
But on the day that he was supposed to move, his mother came running into the office, bawling.
“I lost all resolution,” Monger said. “I couldn’t handle it. I decided to stay.”
And so, in the summer of Monger’s freshman year of high school, he and his mother moved into a house in Clifton. But even that stint lasted only six months.
“She messed up the rent,” said Monger. “She’s not very good with money. This was all about security. I remember when we were staying in Clifton I’d go home and mom would be yelling and screaming, or I’d just be waiting outside for the manager to come with the Sheriff to kick us out. The insecurity makes it really hard. If The House had been there, I could have done much better.”
Monger spent nearly three years living with his mother in a hotel and a house owned by the hotel manager before they were once again forced to leave.
“I wish I had known that I would’ve been okay if I had left mom,” said Monger, his lips quivering. “That it would not have been as hard as I thought it was going to be. That I would’ve been better off.”
Monger spent four months in a local motel before moving into a house with his best friend, the one who would walk with him to the mall in Teller. Monger is still at that house, the twelfth place in his life he has called “home.” Monger is set to graduate from GJHS this May.
“This is the best year I’ve had in a while,” said Monger.
His mother still lives in Grand Junction, and he sees her on a regular basis.
“I love my mom,” said Monger. “I don’t blame her for any of it. It’s just something she has to deal with. But it’s a lot better now, getting to see her when she wants to see me, not when she’s not herself.”
“People need to pay attention to the young people that are flying under the radar in this community,” said Belinda Howery, mentor of Monger’s and Lead Advocate for Resources, Education, and Advocacy for Children who are Homeless. “And The House is doing that. The House is telling these kids, ‘You’re safe, you’re okay, we’re going to feed you. You’re welcome to take a breath.’ To have The House…oh, watch out.”
Before he leaves, Monger hands me the heart he had formed from paper. May his story form far more hearts than just that piece of paper.
To learn more about the House and ways you can serve homeless teens in your community, please visit thehousegj.org.
Story provided by Robert Lamme and Associates.