When Jada’s father was disabled in a car accident, the path of her childhood and her family’s stability was deeply affected.
Her parents struggled to keep up with monthly bills, including mortgage payments. “My dad wasn’t able to work,” Jada says. “So we weren’t able to pay for the house, so we lost the house.”
Looking for a living situation that they could afford, Jada and her parents accepted an offer to stay in someone’s home. However, the new living situation brought its own challenges for the family. “She ended up being a hoarder,” recalls Jada. “I slept on the floor around big huge boxes. But it was really cheap rent, so we were kind of forced to accept that.”
The weight of these challenges had a significant impact on Jada.
“That period was definitely the worst time of my life,” she says. “We really struggled. I got really bad grades. I was really depressed and had a hard time focusing.”
Not knowing what would happen next, Jada worried – for herself, her parents, and what would happen to them. “It was just this big weight over my head,” she remembers of the emotional burden that she carried.
When Jada advocated for herself and asked for help, her mom got in touch with Social Advocates for Youth (SAY). She setup a counseling appointment with SAY, and things began to improve.
“SAY was a foundation that I started to lean on,” says Jada. Through SAY’s career services, Jada applied to work in the SEYEC (Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps) program.
Through support and services of SAY, Jada found and sustained a job at a local animal shelter, which lifted her spirits and eased her depression. “In my job, I do adoptions and redemptions, clean cages, and medicate the animals,” she says. “I spend time with the animals, play with them, and just make sure that they have all that they need.”
However, Jada’s housing situation continued to be a problem without an easy fix.
When counselors told her about the launch of the SAY Finley Dream Center, she saw the possibility of a longterm solution and real stability.
“I got a call one day that I was next on the list, and I just cried – I cried a lot,” she says, remembering her sense of relief. “I wasn’t going to have to worry. I knew that SAY had my back.”
At the Dream Center, SAY could offer support and guidance to Jada until she was ready to live on her own.
When she moved into her room at the center, it was her first time having a private space where she could recharge and destress. In addition, she started benefiting from the on-site services and residential community there.
“I’m starting to get to know people at the Dream Center,” Jada says. “There’s a sense of community – like a second family.”
Looking back, Jada credits the staff at SAY for guiding her to take initiative for herself, rather than simply responding to her circumstances.
“They’ve given me my voice and the ability to figure out what I want in life,” she says. “And they gave me the tools to achieve those things.”
Today, Jada is thinking about enrolling in the Veterinary Technician program at the local junior college. She can see a future caring for animals, and knows that the college program would help her gain the necessary experience to do that well.
“To all the people that support SAY, I could say thank you but that’s just not enough. You’ve definitely helped me to become a better person,” Jada says. “Without the volunteers and the donors, who knows where I’d be right now.”
Last year, Social Advocates for Youth ended homelessness for 189 youth in Sonoma County.