“I am able to see hope and opportunity for my future.”
My name is Christina. I am a single mother of a 3 year old boy. In November of 2014, I built up the courage to get out of a violent relationship I was in with my son’s father. Unfortunately, I lost my home, and due to being homeless, I also lost my job. With no job, I was unable to afford a daycare for my son to look for work. I was stuck in a cycle, and was terrified that I would fail my son. I was able to find temporary shelters for months at a time, but nothing was ever permanent. My son and I soon grew frustrated and unhappy with the inconsistencies of our lives. We lived this way for almost two years, sleeping temporarily with friends and families, with some of the worst nights being us sleeping in my car. It broke my heart to get my son ready for the day in the backseat of my car. The last thing I ever thought I’d be wondering was, where will I bathe myself and my child, and will we ever get off the streets?
I wasn’t able to complete my semesters in college, and I was only working two days a week. But I stayed connected with people who had my best interest at heart and when I finally was able to reach out for help I heard all about AHO from a counselor at the College of Marin. I reached out to Zara the Founder of AHO, and soon after that we were meeting to discuss how she could help. This was around the same time that I got accepted into Gilead House in Novato, which is a temporary shelter for single mothers, one of AHO’s 86-Alliance for Youth partners. However, Zara expressed that we should stay in touch because there are many services AHO has that could be of assistance to me. I was shocked at all the services that are available for free through AHO. When I told Zara I was interested in cleaning up my credit, and learning more about finances, she immediately connected me with someone who could help. Currently, I am working with Chona from Westamerica Bank in a personal one on one way on my credit. Chona is a very knowledgeable, patient and has generously helped me get up to speed over the many hours we have worked together. Even more importantly, she is very easy to talk to and really is eager to help. This is what really makes AHO a nonprofit that youth can trust. AHO is very consistent in how they help, and everyone that works with AHO wants to see us succeed and treat us as already successful young adults. They don’t focus on what they can’t do for us, instead, they are giving us opportunities to speak for ourselves, direct our own lives, providing what we ask for to go forward on our personal goals, while giving us a voice in the community.
When a youth calls for assistance, we are in a vulnerable state. The last thing we want to hear is that there is no room or that there are no longer resources for us, because that may discourage us to seek further help. Although we understand that it is impossible to accommodate every need, AHO has at the very least one resource that they can provide that no other organization could, all for free! This system is what keeps youth connected and wanting to tell their friends about AHO, the fact that they are there for us when we need them even if it’s just for moral support. AHO is a positive influence on my career goals. AHO has given me and other youth so many opportunities to speak in the community and become youth leaders. In addition, we work together to form our own support system community that we never had. AHO has helped me gain my confidence and really focus on my future. I am currently enrolled at the College of Marin and am working on my AA degree to transfer, I also work in the College Skills Department. I work at the nonprofit Bloom, that is one of AHO’s Alliance for Youth partners. I am also a youth Spokesperson for AHO in the schools and community. I am so grateful for all the support that I have with AHO – they really keep me moving forward. They are a one stop shop for anything I might need to keep going. When I got approved for an apartment AHO stepped in immediately with their Housing Fund to ensure I had the first, last and security deposit for this housing.
Most recently, I was one of the three youth on the planning team for the Town Hall Forum at Dominican University where we were raising awareness about youth homelessness in Marin, sharing the AHO model and inspiring the community to step in and work with us in one of the 4 actions groups of the Forum: City/Town, AHO Resource, School Outreach and Business/Faith/Organization Outreach. I was an AHO Ambassador spokesperson at a Sex Trafficking workshop at Marin Office of Education with AHO.
I am very connected with AHO and am proud to be an Ambassador of Hope for them. AHO is an amazing program that is preventative, cost effective, youth friendly and comprehensive. Through AHO’s support, I am now able to see hope and opportunity for my future compared to a year ago I only doubted my future and my ability to change it.