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Alex, left, and his mentor Bruce.
Alex’s story: Finding a safe place to be gay
Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones
…but for some, words can hurt more than anything. And no one knows that better than Alex Jutras. Now a young adult living in a Connecticut suburb, Alex was once a victim of relentless abuse by his peers.
As a gay youth living in group homes, Alex was regularly the target of stereotypical homophobic verbal assaults from the other residents. “It was the hardest thing I ever experienced,” recalls Alex. “I had no friends and the kids there made me feel bad about myself. They bullied me constantly and when the staff wasn’t looking, they’d beat me up.” Attempts to defend himself were fruitless and often led to marks on his record and, eventually, he would have to leave the group home.
At nine, Alex had been placed in DCF custody when his parents, both with drug addictions, were no longer able to care for him. Over the next several years he would find himself in multiple group homes, shelters and in periodic care of relatives. By 16, Alex had no self-confidence and was beginning to lose hope for a fulfilling life.
Things began to change one day when Alex attended a True Colors Conference where he learned about The Home’s Waltham House. One of only a few of its kind in the nation, Waltham House is a group home for youth who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) their sexual orientation. Alex told his aunt about the program and after a brief waiting period, she was able to get him placement at the group home.
“When I first got there, I was amazed to see so many different kinds of people in one house. At Waltham House we were accepted no matter who you were or who you loved. The staff was incredibly supportive and positive.”
Over the course of his 12-month stay, Alex thrived. He attended regular group therapy sessions that brought him comfort in knowing he wasn’t alone. Life skills development and family counseling were also integral parts of Alex’s growth and healing process. “My aunt and uncle were very active in my treatment and visited me once a month. Sometimes my cousins would visit me too. I don’t think I could have done it without their support.”
Today Alex has a successful career as a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker. He is happy to be back in his home state where he plans to purchase his first home and begin volunteer work as a mentor. He still keeps in touch with staff from Waltham House and adds that by far the most important thing they did for him was to set him up with a therapeutic mentor named Bruce. Bruce mentored Alex for more than five years and whether they were hiking, going out to dinner, or just hanging out together talking, Bruce played a significant role in Alex’s development as a young man.
Sadly Bruce passed away on Father’s Day in 2010. It was a difficult loss knowing he would never see his friend again but Alex will never forget him. “Even today when I am having a particularly difficult day I will ask myself, what would Bruce do?”