Charisma’s Testimony to City Council

Good afternoon.  My name is Charisma, and this is my daughter, Angel.  Thank you for the opportunity to speak here today and share my story.

Three years ago, I was living happily with my mom and my siblings – we were all together celebrating holidays and birthdays like a normal family.  Then, last year, after our family could no longer afford to pay heat, water, and rent, we found ourselves with no food, split apart, and homeless.  While my family went to a shelter, my daughter, Angel, and I basically went from place to place trying to find a stable home.  From my aunt’s couch to going to OSH each morning to try to get a bed for the night.

When Angel and I were on the street, it made me feel shame.  I never imagined being in this situation, and I felt the pain of not being able to care for my baby.  Most days I cried as I held my child, and tried to get myself together for her sake.  Finally, OSH told me about Covenant House, and that’s when I got a glimpse of hope.  Even though I found myself in a horrible situation, once I got into Covenant House, that’s when things started to change.

When I first walked through the doors, I was asked if I wanted a hot meal, but even though I was hungry, I said “no” because I wasn’t used to people taking care of me.  Over time, I learned to not push people away who want to help me and I began to see staff as people I can trust.  They taught me how to budget, save my money, and maintain a job.  But more than all that, they gave me love without strings attached, unconditional love.

Last month, I transitioned to Covenant House’s Rights of Passage program where I have my own apartment, and I’m learning how to manage living on my own and how to be the best parent for my baby.  While I’m here, I plan to get a head start on my goals.  My next step is an Associates degree to work toward my dream, which is to become a pediatrician, helping small children who suffer from tumors.

Although I’ve had a rough journey, I am much stronger because of it, and I’ve seen myself stretch to new heights.  That’s why I’m here today, because I know there are other youth struggling with homelessness, trying to find even a safe place to sleep and food for today.  And I hope that me being here and sharing my story will open your eyes to the realities and challenges we face every day.  I hope that my voice will help other youth speak up and know that we can change the world if we never give up.

Thank you.  I hope me standing here and telling my story really inspires all of you to help us youth stand strong and continue pressing our way through all of this because it’s success at the end of the tunnel.