Holiday Fund: StarVista provides lifeline for teens in stressBy Sharon Navarro, grants and development manager for StarVista
Imagine that as a young teen, you are responsible for taking care of your older sister's baby and trying to earn enough money to put food on the table. The only adults in your life — your mother and older sister — are addicts who are not even able to provide for themselves.
Despite these tremendous difficulties, you still try to attend school as much as possible. But when your mom is incarcerated a few years later, and your older sister can not pay the rent, you are faced with eviction and homelessness.
That's what life was like for Simone (not her actual name), now 18, before she arrived at StarVista's Daybreak program in March. As the only transitional living program in San Mateo County for homeless teens and young adults, Daybreak is a safe place to move from life on the streets to positive, independent living.
"When Simone first came to Daybreak, she was depressed, hopeless, felt worthless, and had very low self-esteem. (Not surprisingly, she was having trouble attending school) and the school expressed deep concerns for her wellbeing," her Daybreak counselor recalled.
Since its inception more than 20 years ago, Daybreak, located in Redwood City, has helped hundreds of youth by providing transitional housing and independent living-skills training, and offering a respite from hunger and homelessness.
Residents participate in a structured 12-month program, where they are required to attend school, work, and save a portion of their paychecks. Daybreak also helps youth locate housing in the community when they leave the program. Studies show that 80 percent of youth who participate in programs like Daybreak move on to a stable, independent-living situation rather than to the streets or a homeless shelter.
Like all Daybreak residents, Simone participates in individual and group counseling to help her work through emotional issues and achieve her goals. She also receives coaching on personal health and self-care, helping her access educational opportunities and learn how to shop, cook, plan meals and manage her money.
These days, staff see Simone smiling around the Daybreak house most of the time. She is enrolled in a GED program and has obtained two jobs. "She is now the head 'chef' of the house, and she's helping to teach other residents how to cook," her counselor reports.
At StarVista, we recognize that building strong and healthy communities begins with helping each person develop her or his own path of personal growth. We are dedicated to transforming the lives of children, young people, adults and families, and providing life-changing support and services.
In addition to Daybreak, StarVista offers 20 programs that serve more than 31,000 people annually throughout San Mateo County with counseling, prevention, early intervention, education and residential programs. No one is turned away for lack of funds. All of our programs are free or offered on a sliding-scale basis.
Visit star-vista.org or call (650) 591-9623 to get more information about StarVista, located at 610 Elm St., Suite 212, San Carlos CA 94070.