As a multimedia journalist for FMC, I remember a number of nights over the past two years I spent on my couch finishing a story for a deadline. One night I finished a story about Maurissa, who took a math class in community college over ten times and eventually attended grad school at Harvard. Then there was the time I laid on the couch editing a report about the latest advancements and needed improvements in education for foster youth. I’ll never forget the time I stayed up until 2 a.m. completing a video for a congressional member’s office about the supports needed for youth in care.
My couch served me well as I completed work that mattered. Work that made me feel like I was sharing stories that the world needed to hear.
Now my couch is sitting in a new home. Because I will be moving to a new area and starting a new chapter in my professional career, I donated the furniture.
My couch is in one of two living rooms in a San Jose group home, where four young men ages 18-21 will soon move in. The house is a partnership between Unity Care which provides services to foster youth in the San Jose, Calif. area, and the Housing Industry Foundation, which renovates projects for non-profits. One of the young men moving in has been homeless for over a year.
Unity Care’s CEO Andre Chapman said the young man has been sleeping in the emergency room at a local hospital at night because its always open. During the day he goes to school. “Without housing, we know we can’t help these youth be successful,” said Chapman. “This house allows these kids to walk into a home and feel good about where they live and give them confidence.”
Now that young man will have a place to stay, and more importantly, call home.
All the young men can stay in the home up to four years, and will have the support of a live-in group home leader. I had the opportunity to tour the home and see the four bedrooms, the bathrooms, the beautiful white kitchen, and imagine all the memories that will be made inside those walls.
Being there reminded me of why this all matters. Why the stories I wrote matter. Why Unity Care matters. Why all the companies who donated floors and carpeting and volunteer time matter.
We all have the means to empower a young person from the system. Not just help, or support, but empower. Whether donating or giving time, or making this your life’s work, we all have the capacity to lift each other up. In doing so, we no doubt improve our own lives. This work for the last two years has certainly improved mine. I’m thankful to each of the youth who shared their stories with me, who allowed me to share their world. My couch allowed me to share stories that not only the world needed to hear, But that I needed to hear as well. I’m forever grateful.
Ryann Blackshere was a staff reporter for the Chronicle of Social Change.