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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The holidays are a time of celebrating and should be a joyous occasion. However, for one teenager we spoke with named James, it’s never been a more confusing time. On Christmas, he turns 18-years-old. That’s the day he ages out of the family service home he’s living in. He doesn’t know where he’ll go.

Each year Miami Bridge shelters more than 600 abandoned, abused and runaway children.

Miami Bridge provides counseling services for an additional 550 youngsters and their families.

James knows the program well. “I was selling drugs and I was in an out of school,” he said.

James was eventually kicked of his house shortly after learning the woman he thought was his mom was really his grandmother. The woman he thought was his sister was really his mom.  He was confused and lost and became homeless.

“I was on the street for 17 days,” James told CBS4.

He was eventually taken in at Miami Bridge, a home to help at-risk kids go in the right direction.  It worked for James. His mentor, Paul Zamek, said James has turned his life around.

“Ultimately he was able to find a spot at his high school where he is an honor roll student,” Zamek added.

James manages to focus on the future and not dwell on the past.

“I want to eventually open my own business and then I’ll feel accomplished,” he said.

He plans on going to FSU in June, but from Christmas Day until then, he has no place to live.

“It’s definitely getting more nerve-racking and stressful.”

Since James is not in Foster care when he turns 18, he and hundreds just like him are left to fend for themselves a major crack in the system.

A Christmas party Friday at the Bridge was filled with cheer and hope because of plans to build another facility for young people like James to have a place to go will someday become reality.

Until then, it’s counting down the few days until Christmas and James’ birthday when he turns 18.

His future is in question but for now, he said he is grateful.


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