KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Hundreds of kids across the Kansas City metro slept out in the cold Friday night, some with little more than a blanket. The goal: to experience what it’s like to be homeless.
The city-wide event is part of local nonprofit Synergy Service's 7th Annual One Homeless Night, which aims to raise $30,000 and awareness for its programs that benefit homeless teens.
Homelessness is a reality for more than 2,000 teens in the metro area, including Rondel Ricks, who now lives at Synergy House.
“I want to be a musician,” he said.
Rhyming in the shelter’s audio booth, Ricks feels at home. It’s the closest thing he has to one since he moved into Synergy's homeless teen shelter last month.
“I make better choices now,” he said. “I’m more positive now and I don’t hang around the same people I used to hang around.”
It's a new chapter for Ricks, who said he grew up in rough neighborhoods, got mixed up in tough crowds, and started down the wrong path. He eventually got kicked out of his mom's low-income housing apartment.
“It can be hard,” Rondel said of his childhood. “It can be really hard and it’s hard to try to go the right way when you see all that stuff in your face every day.”
Feeling lonely and lost, he ended up in a homeless shelter, where he decided to make a change.
“God would just send me messages,” he said of attending religious services while at the shelter. “So I just started praying every night and stuff just started going good for me.”
He recently got approved for long-term housing in Synergy's Transitional Living Program, which will help him get a job, finish high school and become self-sufficient.
“They’re not troublemakers and they’re not bad kids,” Jennifer Paulsen, program manager at Synergy House, said of teens like Ricks. “It’s really about sometimes situations happen, and sometimes circumstances happen, and sometimes we just make bad decisions that have really big consequences on our lives.”
Now moving in the right direction, Ricks is not letting his past determine his future.
“I see me being successful in life,” he said. “Being something, I don’t know, something special.”