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More than Shelter

It all started when a young boy needed a safe place to stay. The 12-year-old had just left the hospital, and—unable to return to his family—he arrived at the YSS Francis Lauer shelter in Mason City with only the clothes on his back.

“At first, he was very quiet and shy. It took him a little bit to feel safe in this environment,” said Cassie Fuerstenberg, a caseworker and education specialist at YSS Francis Lauer.

YSS staff provided him with donated clothes until they had access to his DHS Clothing Allowance and could take him shopping. Lacking family support, the boy seldom received phone calls or visitors.

However, the staff were determined to give him a “normal” childhood experience despite his situation. The YSS shelter staff encouraged him to write down a bucket list of activities and helped him check them off, one by one.

During his stay, they took the boy fishing and bowling. He went to a Fourth of July parade and the Clear Lake splash pad. But he especially loved attending magic game tournaments at Now & Then, a local Mason City store. His fellow magic players soon knew him by name and donated cards and dice to fuel his new hobby.

“I think he really appreciated being able to do things he had never done before,” Cassie said. “We were able to open his horizons and give him experiences that were previously ‘maybe I’ll do this someday’ type of things.”

With the help of YSS, the boy found his community. In fact, after he was discharged from the shelter, the Now & Then regulars continued to ask YSS staff how the “little man” was doing. Thanks to YSS, he had new experiences, discovered new passions, and completed his bucket list.

The stress of being uprooted is often traumatizing with long-lasting impacts—especially for children. For the youth who come through our doors, YSS provides more than shelter. We provide a sense of home, belonging, and permanency—at a time when kids need it most.

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