For the first time in a long time, Da’Mel is in a great place.
As a graduate of St. Ambrose’s Journey of Hope, Da’Mel has achieved exactly what he and the program intended. Since 2018, Journey of Hope has provided housing and supportive services for young people who are experiencing homelessness.
As a young person in the program, Da’Mel expressed interest in working in the human services field. Coupled with his undeniable tenacity and a penchant for leadership, St. Ambrose staff members knew that he would have an incredible amount to offer as a member of Journey of Hope’s team, and soon after completing the program, he was hired as Youth Advocate.
Today, Da’Mel has stable housing. He is self-sufficient, has the supportive services he needs, is reconnected with family, and is gainfully employed by the program that supported him.
“When a young person enters Journey of Hope, the odds are stacked against them,” says Da’Mel, “but once they get to the part where they’re housed, and they have a footing on their life, it’s beautiful. My job is to help show them that they can beat the odds.”
Da’Mel’s own journey from program participant to program staff is a triumph; his experience and ability to empathize with young people has been an invaluable part of the program’s success. As Da’Mel put it, “When a program participant comes in and sits on the other side of my desk, I not only see myself in that person, but I also see the possible future that I know can be achieved.”
Youth referred to the program frequently describe unsafe home environments and physical abandonment that resulted in homelessness. Most youth faced traumatic home experiences that include parental substance abuse disorders, abuse, or neglect.
The continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have drastically increased the number of youth who are seeking support through the program (a year over year increase of 116 youth when compared to the last program year).
Homesharing is an important strategy in both local and national efforts to mitigate and reduce youth homelessness. St. Ambrose is proud to be in partnership with the national leaders of this model and to be pioneering the effort here in the Baltimore region.
Journey of Hope provides not just housing, but connection to critical services like healthcare, therapy, workforce development, and education. The combination of housing options and supportive services provide young people the skills and resources they need to improve mental and physical wellbeing, increase educational attainment and financial stability, and to pursue a prosperous, dignified future.
Ten Journey of Hope graduates have enrolled in college since January, 2022.
Da’Mel says of his work as a Youth Advocate, “At the end of the day, I’m changing someone’s life, just like this program changed my life.”