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Broadcasting new voices

Gravity: The Voices Of Young People At Daybreak Dayton

Robert Neal Jr. and Josh Egeland are among the staff who work with young people at the Daybreak Dayton shelter.
Basim Blunt
Robert Neal Jr. and Josh Egeland are among the staff who work with young people at the Daybreak Dayton shelter.

We begin the eighth season of Dayton Youth Radio on WYSO with a story produced over the summer at Daybreak Dayton, a homeless shelter that is specifically for children, teenage runaways and young people.

This is a different type of youth radio story because it wasn't recorded at a high school. There was no homeroom, science classes or football games. During my time at Daybreak, some of the young people opened up and shared their stories with me. I never knew if I would see them again on my next visit.

A note to listeners: this story contains graphic language about violence and suicide

"I'm afraid of being shot," says Kiana Vesely, who was born in Toledo, Ohio. "I hope I never, like, get into sex trafficking. That's something I'm honestly afraid of. Like, I don't want no guy to snatch me up. Like, that's a big fear. Like, I don't want to date no crazy, crazy dude that be on that weird stuff."

"You know, they are legally adults, 18, 19, 20. That can be a very formative time and a very frightening time to be emerging into adulthood," says Josh Egeland, the LGBTQ program liaison. He's been with DAYBREAK for six years.

"There's going to be times where young folks from the community have zero support," he says. "There is no one in their corner. They have no family. They'll be relocated from another town or they've lived here for a while and the family disowned them."

Michael Snyder is from North Carolina. He's 19 years old and had been affiliated with Daybreak for about two weeks when we met him.

"I've always had trust issues as I was adopted at two years old," says Michael. "My parents were paying for my apartment. I was drinking 10 to 15 beers a night, and I was really hung over. I got into a fight with my dad, and my dad came in with a golf club. I ran out. I walked here from North Carolina. I found out about Daybreak cause I was at the hospital and I was depressed. I was in the suicidal ideation unit."

How to Connect with Daybreak Dayton
Crisis Hotline: (937) 461-1000
Administrative Offices: (937) 395-4600
Address: 605 South Patterson Boulevard
Dayton, OH 45402-2649

"Daybreak Inc. is for at-risk runaway, throw away, and abused youth from the age of nine years old to 25," says Robert Neal Jr., an anger management counselor at Daybreak. He runs a space known as the coffeehouse where residents can chill, eat snacks, and they also have open mic sessions. "These young people nowadays, man, they've gone to hell. They've gone through hell. But that's why there is a Daybreak."

"I’ve known about Daybreak since 2017. It was a very traumatic year for me. I started running away and stuff because I was depressed at that time, I mean, there's so much I like abvout Daybreak. I like being in an environment around people my age. I liked that the workers are mainly positive. They got a lot of stuff going on here, they got a studio here and all kinds of stuff," says Kiana Vesely.

"The biggest thing that I knew about young people was that they wanted a forum where they can open up and express themselves," says says Robert Neal Jr. "When they first see that there are other people that say, 'The same thing happened to me', you know and tell why [they] ran away. The young person, they say, 'why would my daddy do that to me? My uncle told me if I ever told somebody he would, he would kill me.' You know, life."

"I don’t love nobody because, you feel me, nobody loves me. Nobody," says 21 year old Alonzo Jones. "My mom and dad abused me as a young’en. My mom put my face in boiling hot water, my daddy slamming my head on a bathroom floor. I don't love anybody. I can't love because all the pain I’ve been through."

"They have had to navigate so many hurdles, so many challenges, so many traumas I can only really begin to visualize or imagine. We have the only 24/7 emergency shelter in the Miami Valley, specifically for young people," says Josh Egeland.

"We have a way of connecting to get them help," says Robert Neal Jr. "They want to go back to where they were [a] runaway from. They want to reestablish in the city of Dayton. They want to go to school. They want to get into college wherever they were when they came to Daybreak. We picked them up from there and moved them on."

When asked where he sees himself in five weeks or five years, Michael Snyder says, "Honestly, I don't know. What matters now is the present."

Additional production for this story by Sulayman Chappelle, Angela Moore and Peter Day.

Dayton Youth Radio is produced at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO and supported by Ohio Arts Council, the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation and the Vectren Foundation.