“Even If You’re Scared, Don’t Give Up”

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It’s the little things that count. When you ask Emily what one of the best things about her new apartment is, she’ll tell you it’s the furniture. “It’s just recent that I moved and I was excited to have my own space and everything just being mine. You really miss out on that when you’re young and you’re homeless and you’re just dying to have your own and to be stable.”

If you met Emily now, you would never know what she’s been through. Today, she’s living in her own apartment, while working at a restaurant and with her friend’s childcare business—but Emily’s journey at YouthLink began while she was living in a shelter. Because of the small number of youth shelter beds in the area, there is often a waiting list and young people find themselves in adult shelters and potentially vulnerable situations. YouthLink staff visit adult shelters to connect young people with resources and support at the Youth Opportunity Center that can help connect them with to housing, employment, and education opportunities.

When Emily first came to YouthLink, her basic needs were immediately met—food, clothing, and mental health resources. Over time, she became part of the Peer Educator group that worked to educate young people about safer sex practices. And, through our relationships within the community, Emily was connected with so much more. Through her case manager, Emily was invited to meet Rachel Lloyd, founder of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), after watching the HBO documentary Very Young Girls. “She and I still talk to this day. She became a very influential person in my life. I definitely have loved keeping up with her. The opportunities that [YouthLink] brought me—you would never know what a dark place I was in being homeless and being on the streets and how scary it is for being a young, little girl and not having anywhere to live and this place was [my] lifesaver.”

Now that she’s got her own apartment and is continuing to move forward, Emily can look back and give advice to young people who might be in a similar situation to what she’s been through:

“Even if you’re scared, don’t give up. Don’t just settle and think that this is it for you because for a long time, I did that. I didn’t think it was going to get better. I honestly thought it was just going to get worse. And I look at where I’m at now compared to where I was five years ago and it’s such a difference. Don’t give up on yourself and don’t give up on your dreams. If you just keep going . . . just keep going because it can become a reality if you try really hard and get the support that you need. Build a really good, positive support system around you—and I think Youthlink really does that.”

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