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City man honors mom by providing support for at-risk youth

Rob Harris once was lost.

That's why he wants to help others who find themselves in similar situations to get found.

"I was that person," Harris said. "I grew up in the system. I was born a heroin addict. My mother was a heroin addict. I was basically raised by the system."

And he struggled with that baggage for years, spending time in jail, fighting to make his way.

Not that long ago, Harris, 44, found himself at a low point.

"At one point I had gotten out of jail -- I had done a crime and got busted and I went into jail in the summer," Harris said. "When I got out, it was winter, and all I had were the same shorts and T-shirt I had when I went in. I had no resources. I had no family. I just felt like I was all alone."

With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, Harris found himself tempted to turn once again to crime.

"I thought, 'Well, I can do this crime, and that will solve my immediate problem,'" he said. "But that's how I got into this mess in the first place. I had to make a change."

So Harris started thinking about what he could do to improve not only his own life, but the lives of others.

That's when he came up with the idea for Laverne's House, a program that targets youth ages 15 to 21 who have been convicted of minor crimes or who are otherwise designated at risk. It provides them with a support system including basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter and emotional support, as well as opportunities for employment, counseling, reestablishing relationships with family and reassimilation into society after release from prison.

The inspiration for the program was Harris' own mother, who passed away a few years ago.

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