StandUp for Kids - Silicon Valley
Angel has been one of our most consistent youth at StandUp for Kids-Silicon Valley. He is incredibly hard working, self-motivated, and has made tremendous progress toward his goal of moving off the streets. With his 25th birthday approaching, the age at which youth “age out” of the Village, Angel took the time to sit down with Caroline and reflect on his experiences with StandUp for Kids-Silicon Valley.
When Angel began sharing with Caroline how he first became homeless, he explained that it wasn’t due to any single reason. Rather, his circumstance resulted from a combination of events. By 2017, Angel found himself moving between unstable family homes, relying on others who allowed him to couch surf, and dealing with a broken car, all of which prevented him from having a consistent and reliable place to stay. Slowly, his sense of physical security weakened. But even more burdening was the negativity of those who surrounded him. “Being in stressful environments… I really felt like I was absorbing negative vibes from others,” he told me. “Eventually I started to feel powerless. I didn’t really know what else to do.” This, he explained, was what spiraled him into homelessness. “For three years, I wasn’t thinking straight. I was not really thinking about the consequences of my actions -- I didn’t have a timeline or a plan. I felt hopeless.” He expressed to Caroline that, during that time, he did not even recognize how his day-to-day decisions could help -- or hinder -- his long-term goals. “I didn’t really even have any goals at that time,” he stated.
As Angel recalled the time he spent on the streets, he shared the misconceptions that struck him most about homeless youth. “People never want to walk on the same side of the street as us. They think that we’re going to rob them. They assume that we’re dangerous, no good, and that all we want to do is get into mischief. Maybe some people do want to get into trouble, but what people don’t understand is that we just want to be normal.” As a volunteer and 23 year-old myself, I began thinking about each youth at StandUp for Kids and how similarly they resemble me - in dress, music and pop-culture interests, and humor. Even on outreach events, homeless youth are notoriously difficult to pin-point, largely because they look, dress, and behave so “normally.” Angel’s words rang painfully true. “It makes no sense that we would want to be dirty and homeless. This isn’t our choice, but people judge us anyway.”
At this point, Caroline asked about the biggest struggle Angel personally faced from being homeless. While he took some time and thought intently about his answer, it became clear how much difficulty he had truly faced during his four years on the streets. “It seems like most kids are homeless because they’re lost,” he eventually said. “They don’t know who they are.” For Angel, the biggest struggle has been finding his motivation -- prying himself from the incessant feeling of being “stuck.” He finally began finding his sense of motivation in March 2019, when he began working.
“On the streets, it feels like people are taking advantage of you. But right now, work gives me hope. It gives me a reason and a purpose… a feeling of being valued and needed,” Angel described. He revisited the idea of being heavily impacted by those he was surrounded by, but this time he spoke positively in the context of his work environment. Shortly after he began his job, Angel started making enough money to stay in hotel rooms. On some mornings, he did not wake up in time for work. “My boss would go out of his way to wake me up at my hotel room and tell me to get ready. He could have easily fired me, then and there, but he didn’t give up on me. He never has.” Angel attributed his positive mentality largely to his caring boss and co-workers. It was clear that they had shown him the power of support and hard work. Additionally, he realized that while spending his hard-earned money on hotel and motel rooms provided a sense of security for the night, it was very expensive. Caroline was excited to learn how financially cognizant he had become along his journey. Within 3-4 months of working, Angel was finally able to rent out his own place.
Caroline began to understand that, for Angel, the Village (our outreach center) serves a very similar purpose to him as his work does. “There is always good energy here -- it’s like therapy,” Angel explained. “I’m always surrounded by good-hearted people who are so easy to get along with. It’s a place to relax, let loose, and truly be yourself.” He emphasized the importance of having a safe space like the Village when it’s “every man and woman for themselves” on the streets. “Out there, everyone has to put up a front to survive. But at the Village, I can let go of that. I feel free and trusted here.”
With Angel’s 25th birthday approaching, Caroline asked him about his future aspirations and whether or not he would stay connected with StandUp for Kids. “All I want,” he responded, “is to be surrounded by people who care about me and want to see me succeed.” He went on to explain that he wanted to be this same figure for others. Despite aging out of the Village, he is very keen on maintaining his ties to StandUp for Kids-Silicon Valley by becoming a volunteer one day. “I wouldn’t want to lose this place, just because I aged out. I have taken so much from this place, and I feel like I have a lot to give.” Specifically, he pointed out how his experiences with homelessness have given him a unique perspective that no other current volunteers possess. “I’m relatable,” Angel stated. “When the kids here look at me, they will think, ‘Wow, he actually did it. He got off the streets. What separates me from him? If he did it, I can too.’”
It was clear that Angel held a deep appreciation for the Village and his workplace. These spaces were invaluable in helping him discover the importance of self-motivation and helping him realize his own -- wanting to be a mentor and role model to others. When asked if he was ready to “age out” of the Village, Angel glowed with excitement, saying that StandUp for Kids-Silicon Valley had prepared him entirely for the transition.
Thank you, Angel, for placing so much trust in us, and for being so willing to share your story.