video by Gabe Evans with Nicholas Hernandez
The TAY (Transitional Age Youth) often don't look homeless. They are young and vibrant. You've seen them at the skate park, on the bus, serving your coffee, or even in school with your kids.
The challenges they face are invisible.
*Transitional Age Youth
See them. See yourself.
Everything is coming up roses for 24 year old Gayle Alvarez. But it was a lot of hard work to make this garden grow. From homelessness to peer counselor to employment specialist for homeless youth at The Village Family Services, she has turned her needing into leading. She shares her journey through undiagnosed mental illness and how she found her way in hopes it will encourage others who find themselves on the edge.
Lupe Cerda’s story starts with the promise of new beginnings in a new country. Her family, a family with strong bonds, took a leap of faith to build a better future. But life isn’t always fair, and the loss of her mother to cancer soon after arrival set her on a different, much harder path.
With her father unavailable as he struggles to provide, a brother lost to his own challenges, and other traumatic events that isolate her emotionally, Lupe is left on her own to deal with the pain of grief, coming out in a traditionally conservative family, and surrendering to the call of addiction. When homelessness, addiction, and abuse made Lupe tougher than she ever had to be, she did the bravest thing of all. She allowed herself to be vulnerable. She sought help. In recovery, housed, employed, and repairing her relationships, Lupe shares her story.
The brightest rainbows come after the worst storms.
Daniel Estrada emanates gentle intelligence that is hard to imagine exposed to cruelty and neglect. He and his six siblings were taken from an abusive home and filtered separately through the foster care system. He lived in 10 homes over 8 years, to finally be adopted at 17. With the help of his foster moms, he made it all the way to Cal Poly only to crumble under the weight of PTSD and depression. He ended up alone on the streets. But Daniel’s story is not done. His vivid imagination has always been a refuge. He is a talented writer drawing on his pain, but reshaping the events into expressive entertaining escapes. Find out how he is finding his way back, with the help of the DiC.
You never know when rain will come....Mathew Contreras was an employment specialist at The Village Family Services drop-in center for homeless youth. Always a high achiever, Matthew was able to hide his drug use and mental health issues while working and attending college until he wasn’t. To move forward, he needed to deal with what was holding him back. Matthew knew he could turn to The Village with no judgment upon him during his most vulnerable time. The services they provide help people experiencing homelessness, but even more importantly can prevent homelessness altogether. Out and proud, and graduating from CSUN this spring, Matthew has begun to build the life he is envisioning which includes being an advocate for LGBTQ issues.
Big dreams come with big risks.
Phillip Hargro grew up comfortably in Indiana with hardworking parents and loving grandparents. He was a part of an active creative arts community. It seemed a natural step move to Los Angeles and pursue an acting career. When pre-arranged plans fell through, he was left to "figure it out." In his words, he was “humbled” by the challenges that came his way. Determined to not give up on himself or his career, he supports himself by dancing on the subway and hustling sales jobs. He utilizes the resources at The Village Family Services. It’s been a long hard journey since 2017, but Phillip’s determination is starting to pay off. Here are a beautiful dance number, his recent actor reel , and two shorts- Ambition ( about homelessness) and Conflict of Interest ( a thriller set in the BLM movement). And there's a pilot shot in Atlanta that we can’t tell you about yet! Has it been worth it? According to Phillip Hargro: "On the other side of pain is victory."
Christopher Martin has been to a lot of places trying to find home. Healing your life from childhood trauma takes a strong person, and what if you have to navigate the world with social anxiety as well? Christopher is on his way to stability and figuring out how move his life forward by facing his past. He has dreams of being an animator and cartoonist. We're rooting for you Christopher!
Bianca Palmer was doing great. Her childhood had taught her to rely on herself. She excelled in high school, trekking across the San Fernando Valley every day to attend El Camino, a school she advocated to get into on her own. She got good grades, did ROTC, and participated in extracurriculars. And she was doing it all on her own. She was working toward her goal of working in the medical profession, (a great fit for her smarts and kindness!) But what she thought was support in a new romance, became the undertow that brought her down. But not for the count.
Art heals. Art can save your life. Ricardo Cobian was homeless at 18. By 22 he was planning his own demise. Ricardo found the DiC who helped him back from the brink and gave him the stability to find his passion for art, processing pain, and envisioning a future. Named New Futures Prize Winner at The Other Art Fair Los Angeles (Spring 2021), this talented artist is now exhibiting on the prestigious Saatchiart.com/Ricardo Cobian
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Part therapist, part educator, part advocate, and part den mother Alejandro Soria, director of the drop-in center for homeless youth at The Village Family Services, leads his team to provide support for homeless transitional age youth 14-24 (TAY)
This interview, edited for length, took place during the height of the pandemic, and soon after two of their TAY, had recently passed away, including Robert Fuller, whose murder by hanging in Palmdale was in the news. Alejandro talks of all the Village Family Services in North Hollywood offered to homeless youth and the hidden challenges of serving youth in a lasting and life-changing way.
You may remember Gayle Alvarez from such hits as the Changing the Narrative Unhoused Youth Gayle episode a few weeks back. Or maybe you've had her help at The Village Family Services drop-in center for homeless youth in North Hollywood. Either way, Gayle is a social justice hero. She's come through her own trauma from using the DiC services to providing them as an employment specialist there. Her personal experience drives her to support other TAY (transitional age youth) experiencing or in danger of experiencing homelessness. Gayle chose podcast journalism to convey the impact of mental health on homelessness. With the help of her mentor, recent USC Grad Student and independent journalist Natalie Reddington, Gayle brings you facts, resources, and encouragement.
Music helped her cope through the tough times. So when it came time to do her episode, Bianca (now a medical professional) chose music. Here she interviews two fellow TAY about their music. A gift of love, Gayle Alvarez completed her brother DJ's last song, "Find me Next to You," left unfinished before his suicide.
Phillip Hargo processed the challenge that was this last year through his hip hop piece '2020.'
You can feel the energy and determination as we move into a new beginning!
Thank You to our professional musician mentors Joe Foldes who transcribed, played, and mixed DJ's "Find Me Next to You," as well as the entire episode, and Kevin Stevens who ran our recording session and drummed on "Find Me Next to You"
Owning space through art
Muralist Levi Ponce and the TAY created a mural for
The Navigation Center at the Hope of the Valley
11839 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605
Workshopping with the TAY, Levi taught the fundamentals of translating complex ideas into the impact of large murals. Together they came up with images and symbols that represented the TAYs' experiences of homelessness.
The quilt represents the support provided by the DIC and each other. The panels of the quilt are individual ideas of each TAY, separate but part of a community. The border is a native Filipino tattoo pattern.