[vimeo 215745370 w=720 h=405]
When Jadaâ€™s father was disabled in a car accident, the path of her childhood and her familyâ€™s stability was deeply affected.
Her parents struggled to keep up with monthly bills, including mortgage payments. â€œMy dad wasnâ€™t able to work,â€ Jada says. â€œSo we werenâ€™t able to pay for the house, so we lost the house.â€
Looking for a living situation that they could afford, Jada and her parents accepted an offer to stay in someoneâ€™s home. However, the new living situation brought its own challenges for the family. â€œShe ended up being a hoarder,â€ recalls Jada. â€œI slept on the floor around big huge boxes. But it was really cheap rent, so we were kind of forced to accept that.â€
The weight of these challenges had a significant impact on Jada.
â€œThat period was definitely the worst time of my life,â€ she says. â€œWe really struggled. I got really bad grades. I was really depressed and had a hard time focusing.â€
Not knowing what would happen next, Jada worried â€“ for herself, her parents, and what would happen to them. â€œIt was just this big weight over my head,â€ 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.
â€œSAY was a foundation that I started to lean on,â€ says Jada. Through SAYâ€™s career services, Jada applied to work in theÂ 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. â€œIn my job, I do adoptions and redemptions, clean cages, and medicate the animals,â€ she says. â€œI spend time with the animals, play with them, and just make sure that they have all that they need.â€
However, Jadaâ€™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.
â€œI got a call one day that I was next on the list, and I just cried â€“Â I cried a lot,â€ she says, remembering her sense of relief. â€œI wasnâ€™t going to have to worry. I knew that SAY had my back.â€
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.
â€œIâ€™m starting to get to know people at the DreamÂ Center,â€ Jada says. â€œThereâ€™s a sense of community â€“Â 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.
â€œTheyâ€™ve given me my voice and the ability to figure out what I want in life,â€ she says. â€œAnd they gave me the tools to achieve those things.â€
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.
â€œTo all the people that support SAY, I could say thank you but thatâ€™s just not enough. Youâ€™ve definitely helped me to become a better person,â€ Jada says. â€œWithout the volunteers and the donors, who knows where Iâ€™d be right now.â€
Last year, Social Advocates for Youth ended homelessness for 189 youth in Sonoma County.