“I am optimistic about life and excited to move forward.”


My name is Rodwen, I am 24 years old male of French-Algerian. I came to the US four years ago on vacation and I’ve been here ever since.  

I first became homeless when I left an abusive relationship with a man I planned to marry. We met and lived in San Francisco. After dealing with years of abuse, I had the courage to leave.  With no place to go, I first went to an adult shelter. I was only there for few days before they sent me to a youth shelter called the Larkin Street, that was almost like a prison. I stuck it out and stayed at Larkin Street for 3 ½ months.  It was tough. Every day was challenging. Then one day, some friends I met in the Castro, who lived in San Rafael, heard about my situation and offered me a place in their home.

Once in Marin, I did not want to burden my friends, so I started looking for more resources to improve my situation. I went to the San Rafael City Hall and got a mailbox.  There I was told to call 211 to find out what services were available. 211 guided me to Homeward Bound and AHO.

When I called AHO, Zara, the founder, texted me back right away. We met within 2 days at the Depot Coffee shop in Mill Valley, a casual atmosphere where you might meet a friend.  

My meeting with Zara was like no meeting for help I had ever experienced.  Zara was warm, friendly and made me feel comfortable. I immediately felt safe and connected to be able to trust that I could share everything about me without judgement.  This appointment was more like meeting a friend, and so much better than a clinical office appointment.

Since that day, Zara has been helping me in so many ways. She came with me and helped me register for this semester at College of Marin, apply for financial aid, and transfer my credits from Community College in San Francisco. I am now in the process of completing my high school degree and attending classes at College of Marin. Zara also helped me register at Mill Street shelter where I did an intake that is valid for a year. I now have a back-up plan for housing which has helped to lessen my fear of being back on the streets, if my friends could no longer house me.  

Zara also taught me life skills and tips on how to present myself as a committed person with talents to share with potential employers that may be interested in hiring me. Being undocumented it was hard to know how to talk about myself. Zara’s advice helped me feel better about myself, and that I had something to contribute.  For example, I am showing my gratitude to the friends, who have taken me in, by cleaning their house every day to show my gratitude for their generosity. It also makes me feel better as a person, that I’m able to contribute in some small way.

AHO also connected me to Canal Alliance, to learn what I need to do to become eligible to work legally in the US.  This is something that no other nonprofit organization or resource has even mentioned. I am joining the AHO Youth Team to meet other youth, like myself, that AHO is helping. I look forward to having a community of peers of youth, like me, AHO is helping.

Since finding AHO, I am optimistic about life and excited to move forward. My goal is to finish high school and get my diploma, while also attending College of Marin to get my Associate’s Degree to become an X-ray technician. During this time, I will be also be sharing my story, and all the progress I am making toward my dream with the support of AHO. In a few weeks, I will be speaking with Zara at the Marin Office of Education roundtable discussion on homelessness.  I will also do presentations in the Marin County schools and community so other youth who are struggling can learn about AHO. I’m excited to have this opportunity with AHO to share my story and hopefully help other youth who are struggling, like I once was.

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