Many Paths In, Many Paths Out
There are many reasons why people fall into homelessness - and just as many ways to help people become housed.
My name is Ellen, and many years ago I was a resident at the YWCA's Redmond Family Village. Our stay came on the heels of my choice to take on the challenge of starting life over with only my two children, my car, and the hope of so much more for them.
Our stay has had a profound effect on the life of a young black and Hispanic man who was born to a single teenage mother and frequently labeled
at risk - my son, Micah.
The most daunting challenge of my life was being a woman who was given the responsibility of raising a man. I would tell anyone who'd listen that I didn't feel equipped for the job - afraid to go it alone, without a father figure for my son, not ever wanting to fail him!
But I wasn't alone. I found an amazing community of role models that served as examples of leadership and service for my son. They inspired him to dedicate his future to making a positive impact on our community and the world.
When we left YWCA, Micah would babysit the toddler of a single mother who lived in our building so that she could go to work. He helped build transitional housing units in King County. In high school, he became a junior guidance counselor for younger children in the community and has worked at the Boys and Girls Club for 6 years.
I think the best gifts I could ever give my son were watching me do what YWCA taught me to do. He has learned what it means to work hard, follow your dreams, and persevere in the face of incredible odds.
And the odds are against him-black and Latino youth today face unemployment rates of 20 and 30%, significantly higher than white youth. At just 19, Micah was just offered his dream job at Immediate Clinic, his first step on the road to studying medicine and becoming a physician's assistant.
When he walks across the stage this spring to accept his certificate, he will be the embodiment of the saying,
It takes a village to raise a child. As far as portfolios go, I think that's a pretty impressive return on investment.
Emilio, like many people, lost everything in 2008. After spending six years as a restaurant manager on a cruise ship, he returned to Seattle and found himself back at square one. For two years, he lived in a tent city.
It kind of breaks your heart to walk through these aisles, to see people living in these conditions that I lived in as well. fortunately, Emilio learned about Congregations for the Homeless’ (CFH) Emergency Winter Shelter, where he stayed until he was able to enter the Year-Round Shelter program.
Looking back, Emilio attributes much of his success to his relationship with his case manager:
He helped me face things from the past that are painful, but you have to get those skeletons out of the closet to move forward. Now, Emilio is a House Manager at one of CFH’s permanent houses. He’s responsible for the entire home and creating a sense of community for the men living there. He also works full-time at Nintendo.
My name is Neomi, and I live at YWCA Family Village Redmond with my daughters, Estrella and Kelly.
We used to live in Kirkland with my ex-husband. It was a bad situation for my daughters and me. He would hurt me every day. I wasn’t allowed out with friends. I couldn’t go to school; I could only pay attention to him and the girls. My family lives in El Paso, Texas, so he was the only family we had. I had no idea what to do or where to go.
Sometimes, when the girls weren’t in school, they would see bad things happen. I didn’t want them to be around that, so I took a risk, and we slept in our car for three or four months.
We would go to the parking lot of a hospital to sleep. In the morning, we would go to the bathroom inside the hospital to brush our teeth and brush their hair. Then I would drop off my daughters at school. It was hard, but at least we weren’t scared anymore.
Then we moved into this place and everything changed for the positive. Now, we feel free.
There are parenting classes and job resources, computer classes for my daughters and a therapist and translator for me. I had no idea these kinds of services existed. To have the support of not just one person, but a whole team of people is amazing. Even though my family lives far away, I feel like YWCA is my family right now.
With their help, I got a job as a cashier and enrolled at Bellevue Community College. So far, I have earned a certificate in business communications and am working to build a career in health care.
All of the things that I do now are for my daughters. I want to show that if I can do something, they can do it too. When they see me doing my homework, they look at me and say,
Mom, we’re also almost done with our homework too. It is a small moment, but it means everything to me. They give me the power to succeed, and inspire me to reach my goals.
I believe that out of something bad, you really can get something good.
Photo credit: YWCA