I’m 21 and I’m from Chicago. Me and my sister traveled here about a year ago in our beat up truck. We lived with an abusive/alcoholic father and had big hopes that the West Coast would have better opportunities for us.
Once we got here, I joined a band and every time we had gigs, I would make enough money for a motel for a few nights. On nights when we didn't have a show, we would have to sleep in the truck.
We’ve been doing this for about a year now and it’s growing weary on us.
My sister is only 15 and I want her to have a better life. The past couple of weeks, we have been sleeping at the local park and noticed a group of people that bring food twice a day.
We went over to see what they were doing and they gave us a delicious lunch. They said that they were called YouthHope and that they can help us if we needed help.
After I sat down and talked with them, they said they will help us get into housing and help my sister into school.
My sister is pretty scared to go back to school. We’ve only had each other for a whole year, but I think its time.
I also got a job at Amazon and I’m excited to save up some money so we can be start providing for ourselves.
In the meantime, we will continue to go to YouthHope to get food from YouthHope. We will get groceries from them and accept the help they give us.
YouthHope didn’t require anything from us. They didn't ask about our past or what we did to get ourselves in our situation. Instead they offered a helping hand. They offered food. They offered hope.
I used to think family was just blood, but I’m starting to see that family is people who love and help you regardless of our past. YouthHope is my family now!
I grew up with an abusive father. He didn't love me and he loved blaming me for everything that went wrong. He would hit me and yell at me and drink all day long.
I ended up running away when I was 15. I made my way out to California because I was hoping for a better life. Unfortunately, a 15 year on the street isn't the best or safest place to be.
I found a shelter to stay at until I could figure out my next move.
This shelter told me about YouthHope and how they serve food at the local park twice a day and all the programs they offer.
I decided to go down to the park to see the people from YouthHope. When I got there, I was amazed at the amount of food they brought. I got in line and grabbed as much as I could.
I took it to the other side of the park and ate it as fast as I could.
I went back for seconds but was scared they would get mad so I told them it was for my sister.
They happily let me grab as much food as I wanted. I walked back over to where I ate and ate all the food. I felt super guilty and ended up going over and telling them the truth. Once I told them, they grabbed my hand and said “You can come back as many times as you want for as much food as you want”. I felt a wave of relief come over me because I was expecting them to kick me out and not serve me again.
Since that incident, I have been coming back every day to get food. It’s the first step I need to get my life on track. They are also helping with job prospects and getting back into school.
Food seems like a small gesture, but it is what has given me the hope that I will be ok and overcome my challenges!
I live in a car with my parents. We try and get motels here and there, but most nights we are sleeping in a car.
This means we have no personal items. I don’t have toys or games or even many clothes items. I also don’t have school supplies.
When school was starting for the year I started panicking. I didn't have anything to take to school with me and I didn't want my friends to know that I was homeless. But I had help.
I have been going to YouthHope for awhile now. I get free meals and help with medical appointments and job training and I knew that they would help me with school supplies.
When I walked in and asked if they had any extra school stuff, they immediately took me to the classroom at the Drop in Center.
They pulled out notebooks, folders, paper, pens, pencils, rulers, dividers, and even backpacks.
They let me pick my favorite items and even helped me pick out a first day of school outfit. I have never had brand new stuff for school before.
I walked out of YouthHope excited for my first day of school. I knew that I would fit in with my peers and I felt confident that it would be a great year.
On the first day of school, my friends were complimenting me on my brand new backpack and my new pair of shoes. They had no idea that I slept across the street in a car.
Thank you YouthHope for giving me the help I needed right when I needed it. I didn't have to wait or feel embarrassed about my situation. You guys ran to my side and helped me feel like a normal kid for the first time!
When I was 5, my mom was hit and killed by a drunk driver. She was my only stable guardian and my life started to unfold at that moment.
I lived with my dad for a few years, but he was an alcoholic and I got removed from his custody. My grandmother took me in after that, but couldn't care for me because of her age and her decline in health.
When I moved out at 14, I didn't have anywhere to go. A friend of mine offered her couch and I immediately accepted her offer.
I stayed there for a few months, but my friends mom was becoming tired of me being there. She started making comments about how I cant stay there forever and I need to find a place of my own soon.
After a rough night of her mom yelling at me, she told me I had to leave. I had no where to go so I went to the local park to sleep behind some bushes. I found out about YouthHope when they came to the park so I went over and asked for food. I had mentioned that I hadn't eaten in a few days and they offered me extra food. I took as much as I could and continued to go to see them every time they came to the park. They offered me clothes, hygiene products and even resources on how to get off the street. I was so thankful. I was going to ask them for help with long term shelter, when my friend said that I could come stay long term with her.
Although I know the hardness of life isn't over, I’m so thankful for the help that YouthHope provided in my time of need. I know that if I find myself in a tough spot again, I can reach out to YouthHope for help and they will do everything in their power to help me succeed. Thank you YouthHope!
I need a job. My parents told me that if I can’t help with the rent and utilities, then I can’t stay there anymore. I just turned 18 and my parents are already pressuring me to be the breadwinner in the family.
Maybe it’s because we’ve been poor my whole life. Although my parents work hard, they just don’t have the skills or education to get a better job.
Most of my days are spent at the skatepark. It makes me feel normal and I have made some really good friends.
YouthHope has been at the park every day for about a year now. I’ve come to rely on their food and know they have many services to offer.
After having the conversation with my parents about finding a job, I went to the park and went straight to talk to the Case Managers from YouthHope.
They offered to help me write a resume and help with interview questions.
I went to the Drop-in Center the next day and someone was there to sit by me and help me with my resume. Then they helped me apply for jobs and even sent me home with interview clothes.
I felt so prepared for my job interview.
A week later I landed my first job at KFC.
I’m so happy that I am now able to help support my family.
When I got the job and I went to tell everyone at YouthHope they started cheering for me and jumping up and down. I’ve never felt so proud of myself!
Thank you YouthHope for helping me step by step and for believing in me! I couldn't of done it without you!
There was never enough money in my house. Never enough food. Never a safe place. In between staying with people, we slept in hotels, and in our car. Ya, all 8 of us in a little old beat up car. In the summer it was too hot for us to sleep so close together so we would sleep outside, on the ground, on the hood, I didn’t like the bugs crawling on me so my favorite spot was in the trunk of the car. I would leave the trunk open a little and put all of our clothes on top so it made a pretty soft bed and I could stretch my legs and even though it smelled a little like gasoline, I imagined that was what it might feel like to have my own bed in my very own room.
The winter was more difficult. You can’t hide from the cold, or the smell, or the constant cramping that came from staying in the same position so you didn’t bother anybody else. We never wanted to argue or fight or do anything that would wake up my dad, no one wanted him to get angry.
One day we were at the park and these two people showed up with some snacks and told us about a place where we could go get clothes and a hot meal. That’s when we learned about YouthHope.
We shared about our struggles and the staff at YouthHope took immediate action to help us. They helped my sister get her GED, they helped me get a bus pass and get back into school, and they got us all into safe housing so we didn't have to sleep in such an unsafe place.
My parents are in prison now. I don’t want to think about what would of happened if we didn't find YouthHope. We would probably be in a really bad place.
I’ve been homeless since I was 13. I’ve lived with my friend’s while couch surfing and recently started sleeping in my car. My home life was never good. My mom has a drug problem and I’ve never met my dad. These series of events have caused me severe depression. I don’t have any resources to help my depression and some days are so dark.
One thing that keeps me going is skateboarding. It brings me joy, brings me friends, and I’m pretty good at it. On most days, you can find me at the local skatepark. I’m usually there most of the day. I can skate and forget about the world. I’ve made some great friends at the skate park that I consider my family now. Skating is the best part of me.
A lot of the people that I spend my day with at the skatepark are in the same shoes as me. They’re poor, live in unstable houses, have parents with drug/alcohol substance abuse problems, do drugs themselves, etc. A lot of us need help. We need help from other people besides our family, because our family is unstable.
Last April, we started to noticed this group coming twice a day to give us food and drinks. We found out quickly that they were here to stay. We’ve never had any sort of organizations come and offer help like YouthHope did.
After a few weeks, I was curious what YouthHope was. I started having conversations every time YouthHope came to bring us food. I learned that they do way more than just food and drinks and I got to talk to the Director, Heidi. I got to sit down and get real about my depression. She was so helpful and immediately started calling people to get me the help I need. I’m now in therapy to help with my depression. Heidi also listened to my passion for skating. She encouraged me to follow my skating dreams and even went and bought me new wrist guards. It shows that they care about us as a whole lot. They care about our mental health, but they also care about the parts of us that give us joy, like skateboarding.
I can’t wait for their Drop In Center to open back up so that I can go visit them. I know that I will use their computer lab for future job searches and find clothes in their clothing pantry. Thank you YouthHope for all that you continue to do for the youth in our community.
Working at YouthHope allows me to see a variety of different people and different personali-ties. I get to meet and hang out with many vibrant youth who are determined to reach their dreams despite the unending challenges.
Since we’ve been consistently going to the park for about a year now, the kids know our car and come right over when they see us park. They line up to get a meal and water and then sit down to enjoy their food. We get to talk to them and listen to their stories, hear about their day, laugh at their jokes, and even skate with them.
As the youth finish their meals and continue skating or head home, there are a few youth who always stay back to talk to us. They tell us how this is the only meal they’ve had all day and how they haven't had any water.
It shocked me how many of our youth rely on us to keep our word. To know that if we don’t show up at the park, they don’t get a meal that day. They trust us and we at YouthHope don’t take that lightly. We want them to know that we are reliable and we are trustworthy.
Ever since I knew about many of the youth only getting our meal during the day, I always make sure we have leftovers to send home with them. I help them wrap it up and put it in their backpacks so they can discreetly take home food without being embarrassed. No one should go to bed hungry and I’m glad our youth felt safe enough to reach out for help.
My hope is that they continue to trust us and we can help them with other needs like Food Handlers Certificates, job searching, school help, and medical help.
The youth continue to teach me so much about life and I hope that as I continue to show up for them, that they will continue to show up for them-selves and push towards their goals even when life seems to be against them.
I’ve always been able to provide for me and my family. I’ve never had to ask for help. I’m a single mom of 3 living in an apartment.
I’ve always had good jobs that pay well. I’m not rich, but I’m definitely able to pay my bills and do fun activities with my children. That is, until COVID hit.
I quickly lost my job as a waitress and didn't know how long it would be before I could get a new job. I applied for unemployment and have done my best to live within my means.
It’s been so hard to be able to keep food on the table, stay on top of my bills, and buy just the necessities.
I started working with food courier companies to try to offset my bills, but it still was a struggle every week.
I saw a post on Facebook about YouthHope offering groceries to anyone in the community. As much as my pride didn't want to admit that I needed help, I knew it would be best for my family to have fresh groceries for them.
I stopped by YouthHope and was amazed at the generosity that I was shown. I was shown kindness, love, and respect.
The food we received was fresh, high quality food that I felt very comfortable feeding my kids.
They saw that I had kids in the car and added fun desserts in my grocery boxes to brighten up their day.
I was also told to come back if I needed more and I cannot explain the relief that I felt knowing that I had a place that could help me again if I needed it.
I have several other ex co-workers that are in the same place and I was able to share this resource with them as well.
I can’t wait till I am in a better place and I can give back to YouthHope. This small gesture that they have shown has made me view the world in a different way.
I will never judge someone again. You never know what someone is going through and why they may need some help.
Thank you YouthHope for the help and for showing me how to be a better person in this world.
I’m not homeless, but I’m poor. My parents have always tried to provide for us, but its never been easy. They don’t have an education, they jump from job to job, and we usually are short on funds every month.
I spend most of my time at the local skatepark. It’s an escape from my life and I like the people there. I noticed YouthHope earlier in the year when they continually showed up with food and water and clothes. I always take food from them because I’m not guaranteed food when I get home.
Around October, the people from YouthHope started talking about free shoes for Christmas. The part that really shocked me was that the shoes would be wrapped. In wrapping paper!
I’ve never received a wrapped gift before. Ever! Living in poverty means gifts are rare. And wrapped gifts are even rarer.
I signed up the first day that I was able to and then waited impatiently until the day of the party.
I showed up the day of the party and ran right up to the cars to get my shoes. When they gave me my first wrapped gift, I didn't want to unwrap it. I wanted to keep it wrapped. I wanted to keep it as a reminder that I’m loved and cared for.
I was supposed to try on the shoes before I left the park, but I didn't. I didn't want to unwrap it. I waited a few days before I opened them and kept the wrapping paper.
I can’t wait for next Christmas where I can get another wrapped pair of shoes from YouthHope. Until then, I have a goal to better my life.
I’m going to try harder in school, do my homework, and be a better listener to my parents. I have a goal to be in a better spot next year when I receive my wrapped gift.
YouthHope believes in me and has offered to help me anytime I need it.
Thank you YouthHope for being a constant source of help in my life and for giving me a new sense of belonging and drive.