Kindra Fildes moved out of her parents’ house just a few weeks before her 18th birthday, but she would soon find out that she was nowhere near ready to make it on her own.
“I didn’t want to be in that lifestyle anymore,” Fildes said of living with her mother, who was a heavy methamphetamine user at the time.
This is not the first time Fildes, now 20 years old, had faced adversity in her life. While in the second grade, she was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety. The next year was the first of three times she would end up in the foster care system.
Fildes describes being bounced around geographically and also among biological and step parents while growing up. She considers Glenrock her home town, but has also lived in Kansas with her biological father, before moving to Gillette in 2013.
“Of course, as a teenager, I thought I knew everything and could do everything on my own, and I guess I kind of did,” said Fildes. “There were a few struggles along the way.”
Even before striking out on her own there were incidents of domestic violence with her mother and a former boyfriend, drug use, and shoplifting charges. Fildes is still currently on probation for one of the assault charges.
“I don’t do any of that anymore, I’m adult-ing,” said Fildes.
The latest leg of Fildes journey began while staying at the homeless shelter shortly after moving out. It was there that she met Casey Starr, the transitional living coordinator at the Y.E.S. House.
The Transitional Living Program is just one of the many beneficial programs the Y.E.S. House provides to local youth and the community. The purpose is to help runaway and homeless kids age 16 to 21 gain the necessary skills to become responsible, independent adults. There, they learn life skills and receive educational and career support, counseling, and preventive health training.
Fildes said after their first meeting, Starr helped her get back on her feet by getting into an apartment and finding a job.
Like a lot of roads, life’s journey does not always take a direct path. Fildes admits stumbling a few times in the three years she’s been involved with the Transitional Living Program.
“Things went bad there for a little bit, but they supported me through everything,” said Fildes, referring not only to Starr, but also her case manager Geneva Wickham and the rest of the Transitional Living Program staff at the Y.E.S. House.
During the ups and downs of the past few years, Fildes lived for a couple of months at the group home where each young person has their own, but share common living spaces like the kitchen, living, and bathroom.
“It’s a super awesome place and I’m so glad they have that,” Fields said of living at the group home. “Unfortunately, it was my fault for messing up that whole situation.”
Fildes explained that she has often struggled with anger issues and it was her anger that led to a physical altercation with another resident. As a result, she was arrested for assault and was no longer allowed to live at the group home.
Looking back, Fildes recalled how her case manager Wickham had still supported her through the good times and bad.
Fildes served 45 days in the Campbell County Detention Center due to the incident at the group home. That, she said, was a wakeup call: thinking about how her own mother had been in and out of jail for her entire life.
“I’m kind of a stubborn person, so sometimes it takes me a couple times to learn from something. But [going to jail], definitely taught me the lesson that it’s not where I want to be,” said Fildes.
While Fildes was in jail she said only two people came to visit – her best guy friend and Wickham.
After being released, Wickham once again helped Fildes find a place to stay and she decided to change her life. Fildes has now been clean since a relapse in February. She still attends anger management classes and weekly counseling at the Y.E.S. House.
“I’m just in a lot better place, even than I was six months ago,” said Fildes.
She also loves her job working in the Y.E.S. House kitchen, which Wickham and Starr helped her get.
Fildes said she thinks the kids like her since she’s one of the youngest staff members in the kitchen and, “I’m sure they can tell that I’ve been somewhat in their shoes before.”
“I like helping people.” Fildes continued. “My knowledge can help people, in some cases. It makes me feel really good when the kids open up to me.”
With her hot pink hair, a nose ring, and visible tattoos, Fildes said she has been mistaken for an underage resident of the crisis shelter by staff members from other areas of the Y.E.S. House.
When asked to sum up her experience with the Transitional Living Program in just one word, Fildes chose “improvement” then, added “support.”
“I’ve never really had people that were willing to help me and not ask for anything in return,” explained Fildes. “They have such a great program and they try to do as much as they can.”
In addition to living arrangements, the program helps participants apply for food stamps, learn resume writing and job interview skills. Other group activities include touring Wyoming Workforce Services and Gillette College.
One of Fildes most recent successes was getting her GED in May. When she moved out of her parent’s house, she had just completed her junior year of high school. With no one to make her get up and go to school, she simply dropped out.
Once again, Wickham was there to support her through the process and even provided the necessary prodding to take the final step.
Fildes explained she was in a bad mood on test day and was just generally anxious about the test taking process. Forgetting her ID was the final straw and she decided she wasn’t going to take the test.
“She straight ‘mommed’ me. She even used her finger,” Fildes said, recalling the conversation where Wickham sternly told her to go get her ID, because she was going to take that test.
Of course, Fildes took the test that day, and passed.
“She’s gotten to know me very well. She has seen so much improvement in me. She’s even proud of me,” Fildes said with a grin.
Fast forwarding three more years, Fildes will be a much wiser 23-year-old, and she’s already looking forward to accomplishing a few more goals. She said she’ll be done with her probation and hopes to move out of state.
“I want to see what else I can do with my life,” Fildes said. “I try to improve myself in any way possible, every day.”
Her dream job would be to work as a photo journalist for National Geographic Magazine.
Fildes said she feels good about her life right now and the tools and resources the Transitional Living Program has given her.
“They’ve supported me and they’ve helped me become the person that I wanted to be, but I just didn’t really know how,” continued Fildes.
“I honestly don’t know where I’d be if I wouldn’t have met Casey that day.”
Most participants come to the Transitional Living Program through word-of-mouth or other client referrals. Although the program has a strong partnership with the Council of Community Services, whose staff lets the Y.E.S. House know when a young person could use a helping hand.
By: Charity D. Stewart for 82717