I first met Albert on outreach. He was introduced to us by his twin brother, Dane. Both twins enjoyed candy packs, small talk, and certain hygiene items. At first glance, you could tell these young souls had seen and lived through a lot. Most nights they were friendly and inquisitive, but they never seemed interested in seeking more support. It wasn’t until fours years later that Albert called the office to schedule a 1:1 meeting. We met at a Mission neighborhood restaurant and our conversation that day changed the trajectory of his relationship with ATC.
My name is Anna Fai. I am a Program Manager at At The Crossroads. After six years, getting to do direct service work is still the highlight of my time at ATC. Seeing homelessness through the eyes of young people has impacted me as a service provider, as a mother, and as a human being. ATC’s emphasis on long-term support is a game changer for our work with youth on the streets. Our approach allows ATC staff to be creative and to treat each of our clients as individuals, providing a kind of support that is not traditionally offered.
I will never forget that first meeting with Albert in the Mission. I listened intently as he passionately recounted a tragic past, a tumultuous home life, his love and respect for his family and for the streets, and most importantly, how he saw his future. Like many of ATC’s clients, Albert did not see himself as someone who deserved or needed support, his experiences were just life for him. He pushed through every obstacle with a sensible attitude and the hope for better days.
As I started to build a relationship with Albert, we began to navigate what I now see as the roller coaster ride of unconditional support. Our meetings would take place on street corners, in restaurants, at the hospital, and in the county jails – no matter what happened in his life, we always tried to meet him where he was at. What stuck with me the most over the years was how his hope never faltered, his attitude never changed. He looked forward to his future and personal growth which he felt were just beyond his fingertips.
After 6 years, Albert is a new person with the same soul. He is currently working two jobs, earning his high school diploma and supporting his brother and father. His relationship to ATC has deepened and matured but what always stands out is Albert’s heart and hope in humanity. It isn’t that his troubles are over, it is that he is resilient, bright, and determined to be the version of himself that he can look up to, the version he can be proud of.
Working with youth like Albert has propelled me to counsel in a way that allows for as much space and time as possible for youth to figure out who they really are and who they want to be. For our 20th anniversary, I sat down with fellow Program Manager Demaree to talk about what counseling at ATC really means. For me, a counselor is someone who’s just there, to bounce ideas off of, to run things by, to check in with, to say hi to, to celebrate with, to cry with. You can listen to our conversation here and learn more about our client work by checking out our Spring 2018 Newsletter.
As we celebrate 20 years at ATC, I think of our clients and who they are now. Many are thriving, some are still struggling, and some are no longer with us here on Earth. My work is dedicated to the youth that are still with us, in memory of the ones who are not. I know that ATC has impacted their lives in one way or another and I wish they knew how much they have touched the lives of ATC staff, volunteers, board members and those like you who continue to support us in our mission of prioritizing the needs of these deserving young people.
Thank you for making this work possible.