Everybody gets so excited around this time of year. They love the weather changing, the pumpkin spice lattes, the Thanksgiving meals, the Christmas present buying, and the family get togethers.
But for me, and people who are in similar situations like me, hate this time of year. Because this time of year reminds me of everything I don't have.
I don't have a warm house to stay in. I currently either sleep at a park or couch surf depending on who will let me stay at their house for the night.
I don't have a family that I get to meet up with and eat big meals with or open presents with. My parents are drug addicts living on the street and abandoned me when I was a baby.
I have no money to buy presents or anyone close enough who would want to buy me a present.
I'm alone and ever year at this time, I am reminded of how alone I am and if feels like a knife to the heart.
This is why I'm thankful for YouthHope and what they offer.
They understand the pain and are here for us no matter what.
My first year coming to the YouthHope Thanksgiving dinner was when I really knew that YouthHope understood. It wasn't a big happy celebration, but rather a place where weary souls could come, fill our stomachs, and cry on their shoulders. I left feeling understood and full of hope.
YouthHope's Christmas party has a different vibe to it. It feels like a family get together. It's the one time of the year that I get a wrapped gift that has my name on it. Even though I know it's a pair of shoes, I get so excited to unwrap it. It's a small reminder that although I don't have any biological family supporting me, I have my YouthHope family and people in this community who will buy me a pair of shoes without even knowing who I am. And that makes me feel pretty lucky!
So although I dread this time of the year, I try to remember the positives. I remember those who are cheering me on.
And I'm telling myself that this time next year I will be in a better place.
Thank you YouthHope for making this time of year better than those past years.
My life has sucked from the beginning. I don’t say that lightly. It has SUCKED! I don’t know my parents. They bailed early on because of drugs and left me and my sister with my grandma. My grandma seems to have it together and seems to be strong, but there’s one person that makes her weak and cower in the corner… Her nephew. He has lived with her nearly his whole life, which means we have all lived together for a long time.
My earliest memories of him are ones of him yelling at me, pushing me, and raping me. I don’t have a single memory that doesn't involve some kind of abuse.
CPS got involved early on and me and my sister were in and out of foster care the majority of my life. My grandma’s nephew served time in prison for what he did to me and my sister.
When I turned 16 and I knew he was going to be released, I left. I didn't have anywhere to go, but I knew that if I stayed at my grandmas house, I would be back in the same abuse cycle.
I found YouthHope and started coming as much as I could. I was homeless and was either sleeping under freeway overpasses or on a friends couch if I could find one.
I remained focused on school and knew that if I didn't finish high school then I wouldn't be able to move forward. I graduated high school when I turned 17. As I was walking across the stage to get my diploma, I looked out and didn't see one single family member there. But do you know who was there? The staff from YouthHope. They have been there for me from the moment I walked into YouthHope.
So now where am I?
I recently got accepted into the military. I just have to wait until I’m 18 to head out. So until then, I’ve been spending my days volunteering anywhere that I can.
You can find me at YouthHope helping where I can and trying to make the days go by quicker. I can’t wait to start my military life and get out of this town.
Thank you YouthHope for being there when I literally had no one. Without your help, I wouldn't have had the drive and determination to fight for my future.
I have always been told from a young age that you never turn your back on your family. That blood is thicker than water. I’m not sure why this was held so high in my family since my mom abandoned me when I was a baby.
I was raised by my grandma in another country. I liked my life with my grandma. She was kind and helpful and loving. But when I was 13, she died suddenly and I was left by myself.
I was sent to the US to be reunited with my mom since I had no one else to live with. I dreamed that meeting my mom for the first time would be magical. That she would apologize and that we would live happily ever after. But that didn’t happen.
My mom had remarried and had 4 other children. I immediately became the babysitter and my mom seemed to love her other children and despise me.
I also never went to school regularly growing up. Most days I was taking care of my grandma or working, so when I moved in with my mom she enrolled me, but I was very far behind. I didn’t have the resources for tutoring and couldn’t keep up in my classes.
I reached out to my school counselor and they directed me to YouthHope. I decided to go the next day and sat down with Heidi to discuss my options.
She immediately called the school district to see how they could help me catch up on my missing credits.
She also helped me with housing so I could focus on schooling and stop the mistreatment that was happening at home.
I immediately moved out of my moms house and started school regularly with tutoring from YouthHope and assistance from the school district.
I am now on track to graduate in a few years and I can’t wait.
YouthHope is now a part of my family. Their actions are more like family than my own. I can rely on them and I know they love me and will help me.
Thank you YouthHope!
I’m the first. The first in my family to not become a drug addict. The first to not be homeless. The first to graduate high school. The first to attend college The first!
It hasn’t been easy and I’ve encountered several problems throughout the process, but I’ve got big dreams and I’m determined to reach those goals.
When people meet me, they wonder why graduating high school is such a big deal. Or why I don’t know what it takes to be considered successful. Or why it takes me longer to finish things. I was never taught these skills. I didn’t grow up with parents telling me to go to school, or to study, or to get a job. I had to figure it out all on my own.
I’ve never had a relationship with my mom. She left me when I was really young and I grew up with my grandpa. Although he did his best to raise me, he was a drug addict himself. I have many memories of sitting in the back seat of his car while he did drug deals in the parking lot.
He only took me to school when it was convenient for him. He loved me, but he didn’t know how to raise a child.
I was removed from his home and lived in the foster system until I turned 18. The homes I lived in were not supportive and I felt very alone.
I found YouthHope through a friend and they immediately started helping me. They got me a place to stay, they got me a bus pass, got me re-enrolled in school, and helped me get a job.
I am now in college, living in a safe environment, learning basic life skills, and working at a job I love.
It doesn’t matter where I came from, it matters where I’m going. I have big dreams and big goals. I know I can do anything with the help of the people around me.
Thank you YouthHope for helping me when no one else would.
I grew up in a hostile environment. My dad was a well known gang member. It was a way of life in our house. My mother didn’t approve of it, but that’s just how our family worked.
One day, my dad brought his gang issues home. People were looking for him and our lives were in danger. This was the final straw for our mother. She was done and wanted to protect her kids. So we packed up and moved to Redlands. Life was good. We didn’t have a lot of money, but were safe.
When I turned 18, I wanted to go back and visit my dad. I heard that he was doing better and I wanted a good relationship with him. When I left to go live with him, my mom packed up and moved to Florida.
After living with my dad for a few months, I quickly found out that he had not changed. He was still in the middle of gang violence, selling drugs, and doing drugs. We didn’t get along and it became clear that I couldn’t stay there.
I didn’t want to move to Florida so I went back to Redlands with only a few items. I came back to no house, no job, nothing. What I found was drugs, alcohol, and violence. I was involved in fights, I was homeless and needed help.
I had known about YouthHope for years, but hadn’t reached out since I was younger. I went to see Heidi and see if she could help me.
She immediately helped and found me housing. I was able to move in the following week.
YouthHope also helped me to find a job that same week. They updated my resume, got me interview clothes, and got me my Food Handlers Certificate.
Although I miss my mom and want to eventually move closer to her, I am able to get on my feet and become self-sufficient while i’m here.
Thank you YouthHope for being the support I need.
I came to America looking for freedom. Freedom to live in a country where I could succeed at life.
But when I came to America, I did not find that freedom. What I found was an abusive relationship and poverty.
What started as a great marriage and 1 beautiful marriage, turned into daily beatings and black eyes. My coping skills included drinking and drugs to escape my reality.
Because of drugs, my husband kicked me out of the house. He made me feel like the bad person and took me away from my daughter. I was alone on the streets. Being on the streets meant my personal hygiene was nonexistent. With poor nutrition and some personal health issues, my teeth started to rot and fall out.
I came to a point one night on the street where I knew that I needed to turn my life around. I needed my daughter in my life and I knew that my husband and I could get back to a good place of love and respect.
I went to YouthHope looking for help. They immediately fed me and made a dentist appointment for me. When I got to the dentist office, I thought they were going to pull the rest of my teeth and send me on my way, but their kindness overwhelmed me. They gave me a free set of dentures because they knew that if I wanted to find a job and move in the right direction, I needed to have my mouth fixed.
They also helped me get into a safe house until I knew that my husband was not going to abuse me anymore.
Me and my husband are now in counseling addressing the issues that started this whole mess and finding a place of respect and love.
I have high hopes of getting back with my daughter and my husband and restart the life that we always wanted. I know that this will take years to fully obtain but I’m ready.
I cant thank YouthHope and their partners in the community who made this possible!
I grew up on the foster care system. I never stayed in one house for that long. Nothing ever really felt like “home”. No one really treated me like their child. I was more of an annoyance than anything else.
When I was 17, I ran away from my last foster house. I couldn’t take it any more. I had lived way too many years of being yelled at, not being loved and feeling trapped. I knew that living on the streets would be better than suffering at any foster home.
The first couple of nights on the street were the hardest. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know how the street life worked.
After a few days, I found a group of people that took me in. They helped me figure out this street life and taught me how to survive.
They also told me about YouthHope and how the people there can help.
I decided to go to YouthHope the next day and check it out. Everyone was super nice and welcoming. When I first walked in, I got a hug and was offered free food, clothes, medical care, and anything else that I might need. They didn’t know my story or the things that I’ve done and they still treated me like a friend.
YouthHope became a refuge for me. I came every day they were open and started getting pieces of my life together. I got my I.D., my resume, my food handlers certificate, and some job training.
Right when I thought I was about to get off the streets, something would pull me under. My friends, drugs, or alcohol. Heidi told me that I needed to get away from the distractions. So when I got the opportunity to move across the country with extended family, I took the chance. I was so scared.
It’s been six months and I’ve never been better. I still struggle, but I’m clean from drugs and alcohol, I have a job, and I almost have enough saved for an apartment.
Thank you YouthHope for your support and encouragement!
I’ve lived on the streets for majority of the last 5 years. I’ve made mistake after mistake and have had to learn to live with the consequences. I have a son that I barely get to see. I’m on drugs, couldn’t stay in school because of my choices and now I’m just stuck.
I have been going to YouthHope for a few years now. I would go for the free food and free clothes. Heidi was always wanting to help me, but I didn’t have the drive in me to get out of my current circumstances so I just stayed.
I heard about the new program that they were starting about suicide prevention. I was interested because I have struggled with depression and anger my whole life. I have thought about taking my life more times than I care about to admit. It’s hard living on the street and having no hope.
So I decided to go and attend the class. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. Hearing from other youth who have struggled like me and have also had these same thoughts made me feel less along. It gave me hope that if other people feel this way and can make positive changes in their lives, then maybe I can too.
I’ve now been through the whole program and have learned and used the coping skills when I become depressed. When I started to feel those coping skills working, it set a fire in me to start changing other areas of my life.
I started to get serious about the future and about getting my son back. I’ve taken baby steps to start the process. YouthHope has helped me get my ID, my birth certificate, my social security card, and also helped me get to my first job fair. I used the Walmart gift card that was given to me at the end of the class to buy interview clothes so I could look good when I go to my first interview.
The next big and necessary step for me is a sober living house. It wont be easy, but it will be worth it.
Thank you YouthHope for providing real opportunities to get back on my feet!
If you were to meet me at school, you would think I’m totally normal. I dress nice. I’m funny. I have lots of friends. Just your normal teenager in high school.
But what you don’t know is that I’ve never had a place to call my own. I have never had my own house or my own room or even my own bed. It’s always been me and my dad jumping from friends house to aunts house or cousins house and now a local motel.
This motel isn’t the Holiday Inn or the place where you can order room service. This is the type of place where you keep the curtains drawn and lock the door.
Even with the cheaper motel rates, we still struggle each week to pay for the room. My dad tole me that I needed to quit going to school and find a job. So I started talking to some of my friends about where a 16 year old could find a full time job. They told me about YouthHope and how they could probable help in more than one way.
I decided to visit Heidi and told her about my problems. She told me that quitting school would be a bigger problem in the long run and not to quit school.
She also told me that they could help me find a part time job and also provide me with bus passes so I can get to school on time without having to rely on my dad.
From the first moment that I walked into YouthHope, I have been treated like family. They never made me feel like the “new kid” or made me feel like I had to ear anything. They welcomed me and made sure that I was taken care of before they even knew my story.
I now have a part time job at a local store where I work after school and on the weekends. I have a bus pass so I’m able to go to school and work, and YouthHope is still helping me to find a better place to live with the help of other community partners.
I’m so thankful for YouthHope and the willingness to help that they show.
Thank you YouthHope!
YouthHope is not a new place to me. I’ve been coming here for a few years. I come for the meals, a place to hang out, and for the help I get. I’ve been able to get a job because of the help I’ve received putting together my resume and getting my Food Handlers Certificate.
I’ve had regular medical appointments and dental appointments because of the partnerships with local businesses. I also rely on their clothing donations to keep me clothed throughout the year.
I thought I was in a good place until my best friend who lives in Oregon contacted me. She wanted me to move up there with the promise of a great job and a great place to live.
I immediately told YouthHope goodbye and hopped on a bus taking me straight to Oregon. Everyone at YouthHope told me to stay and was worried, but I needed to do this for my future.
After a few weeks up there, I realized that this “job” was not a job at all. It was a trafficking ring that I was now stuck in. I was being pushed from man to man and forced to do work for them. I thought I would be able to escape on my own, but I quickly learned that I needed help.
I was able to find a cellphone that I used to call Heidi. I didn’t have anyone else to call and I knew she would help. She immediately called the police and with the location of the cell phone, they were able to track where I was.
Within a few hours, the police showed up, rescued me, and put me on a bus back to California that YouthHope had bought me a ticket for.
Seeing that bus pull up to a familiar station and see a familiar face from YouthHope felt like the biggest relief.
I now am back at YouthHope, getting the help I need. I’m so thankful that YouthHope helped me even after I left them. They love without limits and say yes even when we say no.