Starting a non-profit organization, let alone one with such erratic variables, is not an easy thing to do.

In fact, to some, it’s nearly impossible. But for Miami Sleep and the staff of Mimi’s House in Casper, "impossible" just means “work a little harder.”

For the past four years, that’s exactly what Sleep and her partner, Chastidy Greenwood-Fox have been doing. The result is Mimi’s House, a non-profit organization that serves as a home for homeless teenagers who are “too old” for foster care but too young to be on their own.

“We had heard that there was a need for a house to open [for young people], but there was just a whole bunch of barriers that were blocking people from doing it,” Greenwood-Fox, the Executive Director of Mimi’s House, stated. “We’re not the first people who have tried to do this. It’s hard and people give up. But we didn’t give up.”

Greenwood-Fox says that the word “no” is not in Miami Sleep’s vocabulary, so the two women pushed through until they started getting results.

“We met with all the right people,” she said. “We met with legislators, with DFS, the police department, and more to see where the need really was. And the biggest need when it came to unaccompanied youth was teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 years old.”

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Greenwood-Fox said the foster care system is a complex one.

This is especially true when it comes to teenagers who, typically, are not the easiest people to live with.

Fostering a child is a lot different than fostering a teenager and, a lot of times, those between the ages of 16 and 19 simply fall through the cracks of the system. Parents get sent to jail or move to a different state to be with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and their kids are left to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, a lot of these teens fall into the same patterns their parents did and the results are very much the same.

“All of us have our own story that grabbed our hearts,” Greenwood-Fox stated. “I heard of a story that came from our school district. They told us that there was a 14-year-old boy who came home from school one day and saw a note on the door that read ‘Hey, I moved to Salt Lake City to be with X Y and Z – good luck, the rent is paid until the end of the month.’ I heard that story and, at the time, my step-son was 14 and I was just heartbroken. Can you imagine trying to survive at 14 years old?”

Cases like that happen all the time, even in Natrona County. Currently, there are over 263 homeless teenagers living in Casper, 73 of whom are classified as ‘unaccompanied.’

This statistic was unacceptable to Sleep and Greenwood-Fox, so in December of 2019, they officially opened Mimi’s House, a house which would serve as a home for up to eight homeless teenagers. But Mimi’s House was to be more than just a warm place to sleep – what these women wanted to do was to create a ‘family atmosphere,’ for their residents, complete with family dinners, game nights, holiday gift exchanges and more.

According to their website, the goal of Mimi’s House is to “assist our residents with their transitory journey into adulthood; moving on to college, trade school, military, job corps, or acquiring and maintain a good job and a residence of their own.”

Mimi’s House is not a ‘facility.’ It’s not a crisis center, nor is it any type of institution. It is, simply, a home for those who don’t have one.

“Statistically, if you’re a child that’s homeless, chances are good that you’ll be an adult that is homeless,” Greenwood-Fox remarked. “It’s hard to break the cycle, so we wanted to jump in there and give these kids a chance. We’re not an institution. We help [these kids]. We guide them. Obviously, there are rules and policies and procedures that are followed in our program, but we’re really a home. We have dinners every single night, they get to have friends come over and hang out. There’s a ‘mom’ that lives here 24/7. It’s just a place to call home.”

Currently, Mimi’s House has one location that is open to females between the ages of 16 and 19. But, if all goes according to plan, that will change within the month.

“We decided to open a female house first because they were more at risk, statistically, because of sex trafficking and such,” Greenwood-Fox said. “However, in the last month we have had more guys calling than females. So, we have to move fast. We found another property, close to this one. It’s basically set up the same way as this property. We put an offer on it and they accepted, but we need to move quickly to raise $45,000. Currently, we’ve raised $3,800. But we need the entire sum by December 31 of this year.”

“Moving quickly” is an understatement. Mimi’s House has already partnered with community organizations such as the Mercer House, Casper College, and the Department of Family Services. But if they are going to make this new dream a reality, they need help from the rest of the community as well.

“Help,” she laughed. “If we can help five boys from breaking the law, it’s worth it. These children truly want help. And if they don’t have the right tools, they can’t get it. But we can help them. We can transition them into good, successful jobs. We can help them to be able to go to school, to get a place to live. Right now, these kids are just surviving. They’re not thriving. And we want to help them thrive.”

They’ve been doing so for a year and, according to Greenwood-Fox, they have already helped a handful of young women to not just survive, but to thrive.

These young women have graduated high school, found successful careers, built homes for themselves. Now, Mimi’s House wants to do the same thing for the homeless young men of Natrona County.

They can’t do it by themselves.

“Homelessness is huge here,” Greenwood-Fox said. “One of our biggest priorities is to educate the community and let them know that there really is a need for this. We’re not in San Francisco. You don’t see it a lot. And a lot of people, in order to really understand something, they want to see it and touch it and homelessness isn’t as tangible here, as opposed to bigger cities. But there is still a need. Kids are couch-surfing and doing things they shouldn’t be doing; breaking into buildings just to have a place to stay warm.”

Mimi’s House is more than just a place to stay warm. It’s a place to make friends, to build a future, to feel like you’re a part of a family. It’s a place to feel like you belong. More than anything, Mimi’s House is, simply, a place to call home.

K2 Radio was given the following letter, written by a resident of Mimi’s House. Names have been left out for privacy purposes, but the rest of the letter has been taken, verbatim, from a letter written by an 18-year-old girl.

 “I would like to thank each and every one of you today I say ALL of you, because you wouldn’t be here tonight if you didn’t have some sort of role in this house. I try to show my appreciation for what I’ve been given, and I know that sometimes it becomes hard for me to do but never have I been ungrateful for this amazing opportunity I was given. 

 

As a lot of you know, I walked into this house in not such a great place emotionally and mentally. But no matter how big my flaws have been, none of you belittle me or have even tried to give up on me. Bonding isn’t something that’s easy for me and neither is saying ‘I love you,’ but those of those I’m proud to say I was able to do.  

I used to always claim that I didn’t care to have a family and that I could never trust to have another one again, but one day, out of the blue, I remember describing you guys as my family. That’s when it hit me. I found my family. The people I could count on to always be there and love me for me. The people I could scream and cuss at but never have to worry if they’ll still be there or not because once I’m done being moody, there you all are. Still right there.  

Having a lot of moms threw me off at first. I didn’t want to sit here picking and choosing who to call mom. But when I opened up to Chastidy about my trauma related to multiple moms, she answered with “You can call us all mom.” That hit hard. Because that’s healthy. She didn’t try to make me feel bad for not being able to choose. She just pretty much told me it’s ok to have more than one mom.

You all mean different things to me. Each of you have your own qualities that helped me bond with you differently, which made my relationships with you unique. I was blessed this year. I was blessed with a great family, some challenges, heartbreak, opportunities, relapse, terrible friends, amazing friends, grief, amazing jobs but, most of all, love. Happy Thanksgiving. I love you all.” 

 For more information, or to donate to Mimi’s House, visit their website or call  307-251-4065

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