“I want to be part of the AHO Youth Team to give back for the help AHO has provided.”

Zara put me at ease and patiently listened. I felt she was truly cared and was there for my best interest.

In July of 2017, I became homeless after being discharged from a psychiatric facility for attempted suicide. My name is Elzy and I’m 22 years old. I lost my family, my daughter, friends, and almost my job; I had completely no support. My nights were spent in the car, looking for a shower, couch surfing or occasionally at my ex’s house to be able to spend more time with my daughter, since I no longer was able to see her. Being the “go-to” person for community resources at my workplace, and referring patients out to them, I was now homeless myself, and I couldn’t reach out to the same shelters I would refer our patients to.

After doing some research, I found the Ambassadors of Hope and Opportunity (AHO) website. Although the youth’s stories seemed too good to be true, I made the call on a Sunday night, and left Zara, the founder of AHO, a voicemail. I was crying and desperate to find housing and get my daughter back from her controlling and abusive father. As promised on the website, within 24 hours, I received a text message from Zara and we met in a café that same day after I finished work.

I hadn’t told anyone the reason I went “missing” for two weeks while I was on a 5150 hold, so meeting with Zara to share this was not easy. Zara put me at ease and patiently listened. I felt she was truly cared and was there for my best interest. She intuitively understood that I needed to talk to a counselor and connected me to an amazing professional trauma therapist who has helped so many AHO youth.

The moment I got placed on a 5150 hold, I lost custody of my daughter. I let Zara know this because it was really affecting me emotionally; there was no day that I wasn’t crying because I missed my daughter. Zara connected me with Anna, who is running for District Attorney of Marin county. Anna is super humble, down to earth, and really seems to care about the people and the community. By talking to her, I got reassurance that things with my daughter would get better, and that I wasn’t the only one that had gone through this or held prisoner in an abusive relationship. Anna connected me with some good lawyers that would take my case. Fortunately, around that time as well, my daughter’s dad and I were able to come up with a written agreement. My daughter would now stay with my Mom and he would have her every other weekend. Anna is wonderful, with her super busy schedule, she still made time to meet me where it was the most convenient. Without Zara, founder of AHO, I wouldn’t have ever met this wonderful woman.

The next hurdle I shared with Zara for help with was finances. During the time my ex and I were together, we got two car loans under both of our names. I had already taken out a car loan for his sister under my name, which gave me three car loans. After she broke our agreement of missing a payment, I took the car back. I now had two car payments. I was stuck in debt and couldn’t see a way out. I told Zara about this and the other debt I was in. She quickly connected me with Chona, AHO’s personal financial coach, who is amazing and very knowledgeable and has become my mentor. Chona was upfront and told me exactly what I had to do to fix my credit, get out of debt, and be able to afford my own place. Chona helped me find a lower insurance rate for my car, which I didn’t think I could do, which made a huge difference. Chona advised me on what I had to pay off first in order for my debt to go down and improve my credit score. I did exactly as she told me. I was slowly but surely fixing my credit score as well as my debt. I wouldn’t have been able to get out of debt or fix my credit score without the guidance of Chona, who still helps guide me in managing my income and saving money so I can pay rent for my own place. Although AHO can help me with first and last security deposit, I do not have the monies to pay monthly rent yet because of the car loans and the deep debt I am in.

Finally, when things seemed to be falling in my favor, my car started acting up, it needed an oil change (I couldn’t remember when the last time was that I had it done), wheel alignment, and my brake pads were gone. I asked Zara if she could help me with this, and she connected me with Toscalito in San Rafael, one of AHO’s Alliance for Youth partners, who made sure I would get everything done on my car that was needed. I dropped my car off the next day. By the time I got off work, it was already fixed and the repairs were paid for by AHO. Zara, founder of AHO has been a blessing in my life and for other young adults like me, who are alone struggling without any support to navigate in this world.

The first time I met with Zara, she said it’s for a reason that youth like me find her. Although I don’t know that reason yet, I believe it. Zara is such an inspiration. I’m glad she was honored this year for the Marin Women’s Hall of Fame in the category of Social Change. AHO is like no other resource and provides the youth friendly, immediate, comprehensive support youth need to reach their goals. Since I made the call to AHO for help 5 months ago, I’ve received all this help from AHO.

My life goal is to continue with my career in the medical field, which I now know I can do with the support of Zara, Chona, Anna and all the wonderful professionals at AHO that really care about youth. As my life continues to get on track, I want to be part of the AHO Youth Team to give back for the help AHO has provided and help inspire youth like me, who have no support, to know they are not alone.