Mural Contest Runner-up: A Painted ‘Quilt’ of Youth Experiences


This winter, runaway and homeless youth programs funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau were given the chance to win the materials to paint a wall mural in their facilities. In a series of Beat posts, we recognize the runners-up and the winner.

Youth in our transitional living program created sketches during an independent-living-skills group, in which we discussed how they see their transition into adulthood and permanent housing. Youth discussed their own feelings about how they have progressed since entering into services to assist homeless and runaway youth. Some youth had been involved with the program longer and were able to act as mentors to newer youth and were supportive and encouraging that people can turn their lives around if they accept the help that is offered to them and do their part also. Youth then discussed what they wanted to draw and decided that since each journey is so unique, they would each draw their own sketch. These could then be put together as a collage or painted “quilt.”

Collage of images described in the article.The first sketch is an anarchy symbol, drawn by Damion, 18. “Throughout my whole time being homeless, I have always had to go above the law and without the law to survive. Usually when people get to be homeless, they end up with anarchy, because we have to do what we have to do to survive. I have stolen things before in order to survive and want to move past that in my life. I have a baby on the way and HAVE TO move past that stage in my life.”

The second sketch is by Crystal, 19, who is pregnant and staying at the homeless shelter. Crystal’s sketch shows a “metamorphosis” of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Crystal stated, “I came here homeless and I’m taking steps to become that butterfly and be able to have a roof over her head.” The leaf represents homelessness. “It is out in the open with no shelter and is not safe. The chrysalis represents the caterpillar’s home, where he is safe and able to turn into a beautiful butterfly. Right now, I am trying to get into a safe home where I can have my baby and be a great mom.”

The third sketch is of one person’s journey to more stable housing in the transitional living program. Josh, age 19, stated that when he came into the program, he felt that he had no options available to him and that “the whole world was closed off and bleak.” This is represented by the image of people living under the bridge. “After I started the transitional living program, I met a lot of staff who cared about me and a lot of other kids who were just like me. With their help, I got my own apartment and now the world looks a lot brighter to me. There are opportunities open to me that were closed before.”

The fourth sketch is by Katrina, 19. Katrina was homeless and moved into a shelter briefly. She wrote, “Young mothers with a child only wish for the greatest of things for their unborn baby, things that were never given to them as a child, such as a roof over their heads, clothes on their back, food in the fridge and warmth and love. Being a young mother myself, I want to give my baby the world. I do not want my child growing up feeling broken, worthless or alone. I want my child feeling whole and that the world can be hers!” Katrina’s picture represents a child dreaming of all the things she wants for her daughter and leaving a “broken” shell.

Rumford Group Homes Transitional Living Program, Rumford, ME

National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth | 5515 Security Lane, Suite 800 | North Bethesda, MD 20852 | (301) 608-8098 |