Living in the Middle of It.
One of the joys we have of living right in the middle of these poverty stricken areas is that we can see the growth and change, even if it happens years later. People often ask why I choose to live in the middle of the crisis, verse in a more affluent community. My answer is that I need to be closer to the needs to fix the problem, I need to be involved in their community and life to make the changes they need to see.
One of our frequent experiences is to be at a restaurant or a grocery store and have the cashier or employee come up to us and say, "do you remember me" and introduce themselves, share their memories of how we impacted their lives and more importantly share their successes with pride.
This one young lady was serving our lunch at the counter, tears rolled down her checks and I was paying. She told me that because of our program and the belief I had in her she now has this part time job as she attends college to become a social worker. She was so excited to share her story and told me that she loved the ability she had to actually look for the services to help her as her mom bounced her around. This job might have been a minimum wage job, but to her it was the start of moving forward. Her long journey through college gave her the strength and understanding of what it means to escape this cycle of homelessness.
Many of these children do get lost or separated from our programs and we don't know what happens. They do stay in our hearts and always part of the program.
When they see us again they love to share their success. They love for us to know that because of something we did in their childhood they were able to escape the cycle with hope.
Another amazing reconnection was from one of our first little boys back in 2003. He was 10 years old when we met him. Mom and Dad had 4 children together and mom had a few older one's as well. We would visit the encampment every Saturday with meals, activities, supportive needs, and a program to help these children become more involved in their school activities. One day this little boy now age 13 was sulking on the rock wall kicking the sand. I sat down next to him and asked what was wrong, what could be so bad. He looked up at me and said, "I will always be homeless, there is no use. My dad is homeless, my grandfather is homeless and I will be homeless." I replied why?, he continued to explain that with all his hard work and getting good grades provided him an opportunity to go to a special private residential school that was focused on Architecture. He had a gift to draw and could design. I asked what was stopping him. He said the money to get the airline tickets and the bedding for his room. That was all. Less than $500. which his family would never be able to raise would stand between him and a future. Of course we supported his efforts, sent him off to school with new outfits, shoes and everything he needed to be just like everyone else. 8 years later I meet him in a grocery store isle and he runs up to me and hugs me. Tells me he went to college and is ready to create our plans for the transitional housing projects. He was the first in his family to escape the cycle of poverty. He was the first to have a purpose other than survival. This young man is the reason we don't stop, we don't give up and we go against all odds.
Many of these young adults have gone to college, some play sports, some took their education to earn degrees, and all of them feel good about the situation they are in today.
We have hundreds on top of hundreds of success stories and they all have one thing in common.
SOMEONE BELIEVED IN THEM ... we believe in them!