Stories of Success
It happens all too often, young people lacking family supports find themselves with nowhere to turn. For 45 years, we’ve been devoted to these young people, treating them as valued individuals and providing a safe, accepting environment. We build them up, nurture their ability to be part of healthy relationships and help them recover — or discover — their confidence, purpose and value.
Our work is done when they reach for an empowered future. Our mission is accomplished when they achieve a fulfilling life, able to contribute to our community.
These are the stories of individuals who have reached for that empowered future.
If you would’ve asked me five years ago to tell you about myself, I would’ve drawn a blank. I felt lost, unsupported, and was stuck in a cycle of bad decisions.
My story of crisis started when I was just three weeks old. My mother gave full custody to my aunt due to a very bad drug addiction. As I grew up, it was hard for me to connect with people. I acted out in school and got involved with the wrong crowd. Eventually, I found myself with nowhere to turn. I’ve slept in parking garages, stairwells, and under bridges.
It wasn’t until I found The Relatives that I truly had a place to land.
If you ask me now to tell you about myself, I would beam with pride knowing that I can say I am the first youth advocate board member for The Relatives. In the five years that I’ve been coming to The Relatives, they’ve helped me reach potentials that I didn’t even know existed. I’ve discovered my innate worth and have the tools to emerge from crisis with the capacity for a healthy, fulfilling life. And now, I have the privilege of being a voice for my peers.
For a lot of us, The Relatives feels like our last chance. Our last chance to put an end to our troubled past. Our last chance to get that job that would put us on the right track. Our last chance to mend fences and start building a brighter future. But The Relatives doesn’t believe in last chances. They believe in second chances, third chances, thirteenth chances – they show up time and time again to help us get through whatever obstacle we’re facing and remind us that there is hope even when we’re at our most hopeless.
I know now that I am so much more than my past. I have gone from feeling hopeless to navigating all of the promises that lie ahead. I am honored to have a part in shaping a sustainable future for not only myself, but all of those that come to The Relatives looking for their second chance.
Meet the Duponts
The Duponts are a young married couple doing their best to provide a better future for their family. With one small child and another on the way, Daniel and Shadarius struggled to find a stable place to live. They were temporarily staying with family members while working and receiving vocational education. With the birth of their new son approaching, it was looking unlikely they would be able to stay with their relatives. Their precarious housing situation was a tremendous weight for them to carry by themselves. Their need for a safe haven brought them to the Relatives and we were able to take on some of this heavy burden.
In the past few weeks, we were able to find the Duponts an apartment and provide stability by subsidizing their rent. This apartment came at just the right time as Shadarius and Daniel welcomed their second child last week. We can rest easy knowing that their family is comfortable and secure, especially during this important time in their lives.
In addition to being stably housed and keeping their children safe and healthy, the Duponts are gaining financial stability. Shadarius is working in a nursing home as a shift lead while obtaining her CNA II, and Daniel is working and attending online classes to obtain his nursing degree. We know that having a home to come to at the end of the day provides security the Duponts need so that they can focus on increasing their education and income – the things they will need to be independent. We are so hopeful for the Duponts and know they are on the right path to creating a fresh start for their family.
Faith had been striving for a safe place ever since she came to The Relatives. Faith’s mother died when she was young and, as a result, she had to figure a lot out on her own. After time, she found The Relatives and, while we stood by her along her journey, Faith was starting to see some light at the end of her tunnel. Just when Faith was beginning to find stability, she became pregnant. On top of this, she began experiencing escalating incidents of domestic violence. After becoming a mother, she knew she needed a better life for her family.
Faith experienced first-hand what it was like to go through life without the support of her mom and she didn’t want the same for her baby. She found the courage to get out of her situation, but that also meant that she was homeless. After all Faith had worked for, she felt lost and hopeless. She was able to stay in various shelters, but was running out of time. With the weight of our current crisis on top of what she was already going through, Faith was finding it difficult to believe in the promise of tomorrow.
Through your support, we were able to move Faith out of her crisis and provide housing for her and her daughter. She found a safe place to call home earlier this month through our housing program and she is empowered to keep her family safe during this uncertain time. Not only has her basic need of housing been met, but Faith now has the key to provide a better tomorrow for her daughter.
Darion is a determined young man who came from a tough home situation. He was raised by his grandmother because his mother was unsuitable to care for him. With her support, he made it to the 5th grade and developed a love for education. But then his grandmother passed away and through the grieving process, Darion started to struggle in school.
He was 16 when he failed his freshman year and was told by a teacher there was no way he would ever move forward. This really broke his heart and it seemed like no one was willing to help him. But at The Relatives, we know there is always a way.
Darion dropped out of school and started to support himself by working a part-time job, but he knew he wanted more for his life. He heard about The Relatives through a friend and met his GED instructor, Mr. Burns. With Mr. Burns’ help, Darion began working harder and harder toward his goals.
Darion has already passed three of his four GED exams and has saved his hardest subject, math, for last. While most kids want video games or the latest fashion trends for the holidays, Darion just wants to get that piece of paper telling him he’s on his way to a brighter future.
Robert was just two weeks shy of his 18th birthday when he found himself abandoned and homeless. Luckily, a yellow sign was able to empower Robert to find hope in the middle of his crisis and provide a path toward stability.
Before Robert came to The Relatives, he was ready to give up on life. Like many teens who face abuse in the home, Robert craved attention in the wrong places, which ultimately led him into some trouble with the police. He ended up serving some time in the juvenile justice system, and when he was released, he returned home to find his house empty. His parents had packed up, left town, and Robert had no idea where they went. He felt completely unloved by his family.
With nowhere to go and no one else in the area to reach out to, Robert ended up sleeping on a bench in Freedom Park. One day, he was walking up East Blvd. and happened to see the Safe Place sign on our youth crisis center. Safe Place is a national program that The Relatives manages in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. Any child ages 7-17, like Robert, can go within a location hosting a Safe Place sign and ask for help. The Relatives then works with the partner location to transport the child to our location.
Robert had heard a presentation in his school about Safe Place and knew what the sign meant. He rang our doorbell and was welcomed with open arms. We met his most basic needs first, making sure that he had a nourishing meal, clean clothes, and a hot shower. Once Robert was comfortable, we began to talk to him about his situation. We learned that his parents had abandoned him and moved to another state. With the help of Department of Social Services and local police, we were able to locate Robert’s father and convinced him to come back to Charlotte to release Robert into our care. We worked quickly with Robert to ensure he would be stable once he left our care and able to transition successfully into adulthood. Today, Robert is a manager at a local retail store and thriving in our community.
Dacia came to The Relatives when she felt like she had no other place to go. Growing up, Dacia experienced a lot of trauma. Her step-father abused her from the time she was 9 years old. After bouncing around different foster homes, Dacia felt out of place and had built up so much anger toward those who were supposed to be supporting her. She found herself homeless after foster care and didn’t know where else to turn. She needed to be enrolled in school in order to receive her short-term benefits, but did not have the reassurance that she could accomplish this. Dacia didn’t know what she was capable of until she came to The Relatives.
We were able to help her get enrolled in Clinton College and, after one year under her belt, Dacia headed back to school a few weeks ago as a student leader and is on the cheerleading squad. School is a stable factor in her life and The Relatives are by her side to remind her she can do anything she puts her mind to.
Because of you, young adults like Dacia are able to be healthy, productive, and engaged members of the community. When you say yes, you are giving relief in place of despair, acceptance in place of rejection, and empowerment in place of hopelessness.
“I am grateful they gave me the opportunity to do what I needed to do for my kids.”
The Relatives gave Nikita her first stable and healthy home in almost 8 years, but more importantly, The Relatives made it possible for her family to be reunited.
The Salvation Army brought Nikita to The Relatives, last Spring, to enroll in our young adult housing program. She started a job at Bojangles’ and moved into her apartment by the middle of the summer. Just in time for Christmas, Nikita was able to regain custody of her boys and bring them home for the holiday.
The Relatives young adult resource center and housing program gave Nikita stability… Stability in her job, stability in housing, and most importantly, stability for her three boys.