Jilcana speaking to the celebration attendees.
Recently, LAYC won the IKEA Life Improvement Challenge and received $8,500 worth of goods and services to build “Hope's Closet,” a place with clothing and supplies for homeless and runaway youth.
LAYC staff bring youth into our drop-in center through the street outreach program to receive services, get connected with resources, and now, to access Hope’s Closet. Hope's Closet will also offer day lockers for youth to store their belongings while they use the drop-in center’s other facilities, which include showers, washers and dryers, nap rooms, kitchen and dining room, computer lab, and private counseling rooms.
To celebrate the opening, LAYC hosted a celebration with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, Director of Department of Human Services Laura Zeiliger, IKEA USA Store Manger Frank Briel, DC Mayor's Office on Latino Affairs Director Jackie Reyes, Claudia Barahona of Councilmember Brianne Nadeau's office, and LAYC staff and volunteers who serve our homeless youth. Mayor Bowser even cut the ribbon!
At the event, one of LAYC’s youth, Jilcana, spoke about her experience with LAYC’s services when she was experiencing homelessness. Her speech is reprinted here:
“Hi. My name is Jilcana and I am a single mother of a two-year-old son, Lawrence Jr., and a six-month-old daughter, Isabella.
When I first came to the LAYC drop-in center, I was struggling with my then one-year-old son and pregnant with my daughter. I was homeless and had run out of hope because every other agency that I had reached out to for help had basically just turned me away. Sometimes I would go and wait for hours only to be told that I wasn’t eligible for that certain program. I never understood why a single mom with another child on the way would not be eligible.
However, when I first arrived here at LAYC, I was greeted warmly and felt welcomed. After all that I had already been through and after I had almost given up complete hope, I finally started to see a little light at the end of the dark tunnel. I was offered food to eat, told that I could do my laundry here and could even shower here if I needed to. That felt so great to hear because those were some of the issues that I had been worrying about the most, being a homeless mom.
I was immediately given resources that I had never heard of before and made to feel like my family and I really mattered to someone.
I am so appreciative for everything that LAYC and the staff here at the Drop-In Center has done for me. If it wasn’t for them, I really don’t know where I’d be at this point of my life right now, but I do sincerely believe that my life would not be looking up like it is now. I am now in my own apartment, thanks to the LAYC Hope’s House Program, with my two children and I am hopeful that by being back in school and having my kids enrolled in daycare, I will be able to grow and better prepare to raise my kids in a more positive environment than what it could have been like had it not been for LAYC.
Now, please join us for the ribbon cutting for our new space, Hope’s Closet.”
Thank you so much for your support of our services to homeless youth. It is because of donors like you and IKEA that we can continue to serve DC’s most vulnerable youth.
Hope's Closet, filled with supplies for youth.
Mayor Bowser cutting the ceremonial ribbon!