Gimella became homeless as a teenager to escape her abusive parents. After finding guidance and encouragement at Streetwork Project, she now inspires other homeless teens to grow and succeed.
Imagine living through violence so physically and emotionally painful that it is the reason you become homeless.
Gimella was a teenager who lived in an unstable home where her parents constantly fought and her father physically abused her. The situation got worse when Gimella’s mother moved to a different state and her brother’s girlfriend moved in. Because of the tension between Gimella and her brother’s girlfriend, the insecurity caused by her mother leaving and the ongoing abuse from her father, Gimella felt she had no choice but to leave.
With no identification, money or way to support herself, Gimella survived by staying with friends and sleeping on their couches. She had no single place to call home and was unable to finish high school.
Finding Critical Support at Streetwork Project
Gimella thought she would be homeless forever until one day a friend told her about an organization that could help. The organization referred her to Safe Horizon’s Streetwork Project where we provide homeless teens and young people with refuge, guidance and critical resources such as:
- Daily necessities – meals, showers, laundry and clean clothing
- Assistance with obtaining Medicaid, food stamps and SSI
- Access to medical and mental health services
- Assistance finding emergency housing
Gimella went to Streetwork Project’s Harlem Drop-In Center and felt instantly welcomed. She was assigned a case manager who was enthusiastic to help her.
Homeless youth like Gimella often qualify for government benefits, but accessing these services involves complex processes, requires follow-up and long waiting periods. As part of Streetwork Project’s advocacy efforts, the case manager worked with Gimella to help her navigate the system.
Gimella stayed dedicated to following through each step and was able to receive:
- Identification documents
- Long-term housing
- Food stamps
Once she had a stable place to live, Gimella was able to focus on finishing high school. After achieving this goal Gimella decided that she wanted to continue her education. We connected her to a medical vocational school where she is currently studying to obtain her Patient Care Technician (PCT) certificate.
Motivated to Succeed
While she studies to earn her certificate, Gimella works as a senior-peer outreach worker for Streetwork Project’s Real Aids Prevention Program (RAPP). RAPP is an outreach program that focuses on promoting the sexual health of women. In this role she encourages young women to take control of their sexual health by giving out condoms, referring clients to testing centers and providing accurate information about sexually transmitted diseases and other health concerns. Gimella finds her work as a senior-peer outreach worker rewarding and empowering.
Achieving Her Goals
At Streetwork Project, Gimella found a safe place free of abuse where she received guidance and encouragement to grow professionally. With the confidence she gained, she plans to continue her education by going to college. Gimella may have had a rough start but she is now helping other young women stay healthy and safe and is developing communication and job skills that are shaping her future career ambitions. As she puts it in her own words, “With every bad experience I endured it made me more determined to succeed.”