Homeless Survivors Demonstrate Leadership, Break Down Stigma & Inspire Connections

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Contributed by Michelle Overstreet, Executive Director of MY House

Leadership is often defined as influence, guidance, direction or motivation. For others, it equals results or is inspiration. Maybe it is personal success that allows you to share ideas and thoughts, or peer-driven information that helps you achieve a goal. We have homeless youth or formerly homeless youth in positions of leadership across our community. They sit on councils, boards of directors, run some of the largest privately-owned companies in the Valley, and are teachers, linemen, managers and musicians. Thank you to you all!

Before the opiate epidemic, as the director for homeless youth services in the Valley, I would frequently hear from community members about “those kids”, meaning homeless youth. I was told that “they” don’t want jobs, don’t want to work and that any program serving them would not be sustainable because they don’t have money to pay for services, all of which has proven to be untrue. Homeless youth were accused of crimes that today, due to increased security, cameras and police presence, we know are being committed by adult addicts. And we have hundreds of success stories to join the above-mentioned leaders who were formerly homeless!

The stigma of being homeless is fading into the background, even as our community falters under an opiate epidemic that is creating orphans and unaccompanied youth faster than anything since the black plague. Leaders are showing up in our businesses, with homeless youth and young adults demonstrating the capacity to manage and lead others by teaching and training and supporting themselves in the process. They are trying out for WNBA basketball teams, finishing college degrees and being admitted to graduate programs, completing treatment programs, job training programs and looking to those who have been successful for mentorship and inspiration.  And in the end, becoming contributing and productive members of our community. And leaders.

In the coming weeks, MY House will be offering “Coffee Connection” sessions in the Gathering Grounds Café, with suggestions for what to do if you meet or know a homeless youth, how and where to find resources and how to come alongside and connect them with solutions, information about how to become a volunteer, mentor, join a group of homeless youth for supper or join our street outreach team.  

Watch our Facebook page, website (www.myhousematsu.org) or come by 300 North Willow Street for more information.