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Mintch is a lot of things: a free spirit, loyal, and an another homeless youth staying at Taylor’s House, Salem’s youth shelter.

The Keizertimes spoke with her as part of our continuing series on youth homelessness. Like many in her shoes, Mintch has transitioned through many types of homelessness, but she’s finding her footing – and making strides to reclaim control of her life – with the help of a permanent address. 

When she moved back to Keizer, at age 15, Mintch was hesitant to make friends. “I was really scared of my appearance and going back to school,” she said, but it wasn’t long before she found her people.

At the time, she and her mom were living with a friend after moving from Prineville. When the owner of the home said they had to leave, Mintch wasn’t worried; she knew she had friends who would help her figure something out.

She ended up at Jackson Street, a homeless shelter in Albany. “I felt like I was held there against my will,” she said, “I was in trouble for every little thing I did.”

For someone who values her freedom, it wasn’t a good fit. A friend’s mother said she could move in with their family. But trouble soon struck again when Mintch made friends with the neighbors.

A mishap involving Mintch getting into a car crash put pressure on the living situation, and it left her with a concussion. That put her in academic life in turmoil. She was unable to participate in physical education, and it almost resulted in her failing P.E.

“We’re not supposed to, but in the middle of class I called my mom,” she said. It got worked out and Mintch managed to pass..

After the wreck, Mintch moved back in with her mom, who was living with a friend. They paid $650 a month to rent a room in her apartment.

That winter, her mom got caught up in a fraud scheme, which sparked an argument between mother and daughter. 

“My mom got mad at me because I called her naive,” she said.

While she might not have found the best words, Mintch felt her heart was in the right place. 

“I was trying to warn her and she saw it as me trying to control her – as if I were her mother,” Mintch said.

Amid the drama, Mintch left; her family was kicked out of the apartment shortly after. “When we moved out of there, my mom and sister were on the streets,” she said. 

Luckily, Mintch had a friend named Carlie who offered her a place to live.

Carlie was like a sister to Mintch and the two shared a room. 

Though she was grateful for the roof over her head, Mintch noticed the family dynamic was as fragile as her own.

“We’d go in her room and smoke marijuana to get our minds off the yelling that was coming from her dad’s room across the hall,” she said.

Mintch lived there for almost six months before leaving for greener pastures when a teacher offered to let her move in.

“She had given me a list of things I could and couldn’t do and she gave me a list of opportunities I had living with her,” she said. The offer brought Mintch, who was not used to such displays of affection, to tears. 

After talking it over with her friend’s family, Mintch decided moving was the best option.

She stayed there a little over a month, but had trouble adjusting to the rules of the house. “I wasn’t listening to my teacher, I was very rude in fact,” she admitted.

It doesn’t take long to pick up the “no-nonsense” policy that Mintch holds herself, and the people around her, to. She was honest and said that she had a lot of growing up to do.

After a crisis of conscious, Mintch moved in with another friend. Though she was not kicked out of her teacher’s home, she felt it was better if she left.

She still wasn’t on speaking terms with her mother, but she finally found her way back to the family when her aunt forced her to move in. It was not the happy reunion Mintch hoped for.

“She (her aunt) told me I was a bad kid no matter what I was doing,” Mintch said. Over the course of several months, her aunt wore her down to a shell of her former, vibrant self.

Mintch was pulled from North Salem High School and placed at Roberts High School. Her aunt told her the reason behind the move was to get rid of “distractions,” or as Mintch called them, her friends.

“I was kind of letting her control my life,” she said.

It didn’t take long for her to find new friends, but any friendships seemed to upset her aunt, who was now using homeschooling as a threat.

“She had broken me down to the point where there was no point in me actually working in school anymore,” she said. That caught her new teacher’s attention.

A well-meaning teacher offered to call her aunt, which resulted in Mintch having a panic attack. Two hours and a thousand questions later, her teacher determined that Mintch’s aunt was indeed subjecting her to verbal abuse.

“I realized that she didn’t care about my well being at all, she cared about how she was making me feel,” she said.

While she was living with her aunt, Mintch began to self-harm, 

“I had done it once the year before, but my friends got me out of it, which is why I was so connected with friends,” she said. 

Without her support system, she was drowning.

She reached out to her best friends, Buggy and Carlie, to help find a way out of her aunt’s house.

Buggy and her family decided that enough was enough. They took Mintch in and helped get her belongings from her aunt’s house.

Mintch lived with them for a month or so until they had to move. She traveled with the family to Clackamas before eventually coming back home to Keizer.

She moved in with her mom and sister and her “street family” the spring of her junior year.

“When I lived there, there were a lot of issues,” she said. 

Once again, Mintch’s freedom was limited.

She went from being able to do anything and go anywhere, so long as she checked in, to having a 5 p.m. curfew. 

“I’m done with my life being lived for me,” she said, and moved out. 

After leaving the apartment in mid-June, she eventually stumbled upon Taylor’s House, a new youth overnight youth shelter in Salem.

Though the road was hard, there was some good along the way. 

“Carlie has seen my situation get worse since, but she’s seen me change for the better as well,” Mintch said.

In some ways, she feels as though she’s finished with the “growing up” everyone told her she needed to do. Despite the circumstances she was in, she grew to accept responsibility for her actions.

She slept outside with her service dog until she could get a doctor’s note and then moved in. Mintch has been there for about a month.

She’s still is not on speaking terms with her mother or her sister; though her grandma has been checking in.

“I’m happy where I’m at,” she said. It may seem impossible, but Mintch said she’s the happiest and most stable she’s ever been.

She credits the positive change to her dog, Rollee, but knows there’s still more work to do. 

“I need to learn to love myself before I can love my dog,” she said.

The two couldn’t be a better fit. His outgoing, energetic personality gets Mintch out of the house and moving around. Her protective personality and unconditional affection give him a loving, happy home.