Get Lost!

These troubled teens found themselves at Lost and Found. But now the program is finding itself out of options.

In its rezoning deliberations, the Board of County Commissioners is charged with considering how well a proposed facility will fit within the surrounding community, and judging from the past year, there's no way to smooth the rough edges of this controversy.

"The only way they can build a facility back there like that, in an area for homes, is to widen the road and get the intended use of that easement changed," says Kevin Semcken. "And they can't do that without our approval, and I have made it clear that I will never give that approval, and it's not because of Lost and Found. I've had people call me and say they want a drama camp back there, a fishing camp back there, and I have told everybody the same thing: It is not safe to have large groups back there. It's not what it was designed for."

"The traffic studies we've conducted show that we are going to actually reduce traffic, not increase traffic, from how it was used over the last forty years," counters Terry Rogers. "You're talking about a facility that was used as a campground licensed for up to 220 people, and we're trying to bring in around forty residents plus staff. We are reducing the usage of that land. And I know the problem is that it is zoned residential, but what better place to put a youth residential facility than an area that is zoned for residences?"

Terry Rogers thinks the best place for a youth residential facility is in a youth residential area.
Jim J. Narcy
Terry Rogers thinks the best place for a youth residential facility is in a youth residential area.
Harl Hargett came up with a plan to consolidate Lost and Found's facilities at Singing River Ranch.
Jim J. Narcy
Harl Hargett came up with a plan to consolidate Lost and Found's facilities at Singing River Ranch.

"The human social bonds that grounds like Singing River have — that serenity, that tranquility, the babbling water, the wildlife — it's an atmosphere that calms those kinds of troubled spirits," Hargett adds. "For the community to say this isn't the right place is a reversal of realities. What I wish more than anything is that the community could understand that our kids are the same as their kids, and they are not trash that's just supposed to be dumped in a heap somewhere else."

After graduating from Lost and Found on May 25, seventeen-year-old Austin joined the Colorado Range Riders Youth Corps. He's earning $275 a week as "the earth's janitor," he says, fixing trails and cleaning up recreational areas in eastern Colorado.

"I'm pretty sure I'll be busy with this job, and I'm pretty sure I'll be happy at this," Austin says. "One thing I didn't do before is keep myself out of situations where I could relapse. I'd put myself in situations where I would test myself, go to a party where people would be drinking or smoking weed, and I'd try to stay sober. It would work for a while, but not for long. I always was like, 'Man, I have to stay sober the rest of my life, that is such a long time,' instead of like AA says: Take it one day at a time. I think I'm going to try it that way this time, use my parents as support a lot more and try and find some positive friends instead of falling back into old paths."

A less than ideal home life and the death of a close friend were enough to unleash Austin's addictive personality as he voraciously consumed everything from weed to coke to meth. He had dates in courtrooms and detention facilities around the state, racking up charges that ranged from stealing (and crashing) his dad's Mercedes to pulling a gun on a kid at a Castle Rock skatepark. When he was on the run, he would sleep in tunnels and steal from cars to support his habit. Occasionally he'd return to his parents' place in Castle Rock, then Kiowa, call his parole officer and try to turn his life around.

"In my life, I've always been torn by two impulses," he says. "To right my life and to fuck it up on drugs. I've been fully ready to change so many times, but addiction is just an ongoing battle. No matter how bad I want to stop, no matter how much I tell myself I want to stop, I just don't do it."

But both Austin and Lost and Found administrators think this time could be different.

"Austin's another one of those kids that always made good progress," Rogers says. "But he never had the after-care that was needed to follow up on the progress that was made, so he would slip back into it. He came in hopeless in that sense, that he had done things like this and that it was never going to work. The key for Austin is going to be to follow up with him. We're willing to meet with kids as long as they want to, and we're going to see Austin through this next transition."

Austin has already gone through several profound changes. As a kid he'd watched American History X and been intrigued by the neo-Nazi lifestyle, and even though he had friends who were black, he started hanging out with kids who were racist. "And then once I went to jail and got out, I went back to the old friends who were racist, and it seemed like they were right about everything," he says. "Because in jail, you go in there, and the black dudes and the Hispanic dudes, they're always talking shit to you, trying to beat you up, punk you for something, and you just come to believe that their society is messed up. I'm from the suburbs; I wasn't used to stuff like that. But once I went to jail and they had their gangs that would team up against us, the only thing I could do to protect myself would be to find my own little clique to fight back — and that was always white kids who were racist, or just pretending to be racist for protection."

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