Greater Cincinnati's homeless children: Nonprofit works to instill hope in kids without homes

'Hope is a little different for homeless kids'

Kelley O'Brien had just gotten through a draining divorce and Christmas for her kids when she lost her job in January.

Her savings kept her family afloat for a while. But by March, she could no longer afford the payments on her car and was evicted from the Northern Kentucky house she was leasing. She and her three children were suddenly homeless.

They ended up at the Family Promise homeless shelter in Newport the first week in April. And as difficult as it was to look for a new job and care for her kids, O'Brien said she never gave up hope.

"Without hope, then you're not going to get up everyday and plug through and do what you need to do," said O'Brien, who started a new job in June and moved out of the shelter to a new rental home July 3. "I don't know what I'd do without hope. I needed that – hope and faith."

It's hard to say exactly how many homeless children live in the TriState. Westwood-based Faces Without Places serves 3,000 homeless kids each year but estimates there are as many as 6,000, said Ramin Mohajer, executive director.

The nonprofit provides a Yellow Bus Summer Camp, tutoring throughout the school year and birthday celebrations at shelters.

Through all those programs, Faces Without Places works to instill hope.

"As much as the focus on academics is so key, we think things like hope and self-esteem are really valuable for all children, but for the homeless population in particular," Mohajer said. "All of these children are going through very, very difficult situations and often don't see much of an optimistic outlook for the future."

Without that optimism – that hope – why bother with homework or sports teams or behaving at school or at home? Without hope that life will ever get any better, what's the point?

Faces Without Places' Yellow Bus Summer Camp has 131 students this year, ranging in age from 5 to 12. It's free for campers, who all ride a school bus to and from the Walnut Hills camp location each weekday for seven weeks.

Kelley O'Brien's daughter, Haley is one of this summer's campers. The soft-spoken 9-year-old has made new friends and become a role model. Her mom said camp has been good for Haley.

"She was always my shy girl and was very quiet in school," O'Brien said. "This has enabled her to come out of her shell even more and give her some confidence."

Insiders can read more about some of the children at Yellow Bus Summer Camp, what the kids do at camp each day and how Faces Without Places measures hope.

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