Help 100 Youth Exit Homelessness in Washington DC

by Latin American Youth Center
Jilcana speaking to the celebration attendees.
Jilcana speaking to the celebration attendees.

Dear Friend,

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!
Mayor Bowser cutting the ceremonial ribbon!
Dennises, happy after her experience at LAYC!
Dennises, happy after her experience at LAYC!

Dear Friend,

Happy Summer! Thank you for your continued support of LAYC’s Street Outreach Program. Please enjoy this story written by LAYC Youth Developer Jessica Hicks, about a favorite client of hers:

Dennises, 23, was kicked out of her home at age 20. With nowhere to go during the cold months she stayed in abandoned buildings and alleys. Luckily, she made contact with the Street Outreach Program during the summer of 2015. Growing up in Columbia Heights, it was important for Dennises to feel a sense of belonging so that she may be able reach her highest potential. After constantly being in and out of trouble, Dennises was able to take full control of her life. With hard work, persistence, she was able to secure transitional living, obtain a full time job and enroll into the LAYC Career Academy to pursue her dreams of becoming certified in Information Technology. She now thrives in her own apartment in northeastern DC. "Because of the staff at the Street Outreach Program, I was able to accomplish my goals," Dennises said as she smiled from ear to ear.

Through LAYC’s services, Dennises was connected to case management, safe housing, employment, and higher education. Just $50 can provide emergency shelter for a young person like Dennises. Your support can mean the difference between a tragedy and a bright future.




Kory, outside the Drop-In Center.
Kory, outside the Drop-In Center.

Dear Friend,

Thank you for supporting LAYC’s Street Outreach Program (SOP). SOP staff outreach in the DC community to find homeless or unstably-housed youth and connect them with services. Case managers work one-on-one with youth to determine their individual needs and create a plan for the future. This month, the program was recognized for our outstanding work through a profile in the Washington Post.

Kory, pictured above, was highlighted in the Washington Post piece, linked here. The article describes her emigration from Honduras, fleeing gang violence. She came to the US to live with her sister, but soon found herself sleeping on friends’ couches. Kory’s situation is not unique for unstably-housed youth. They are scared of adult shelters, embarrassed to admit they are homeless, and worried about paperwork requirements they may need to seek help.

SOP’s Drop-In Center is a safe space for these youth. They can just come to hang out, eat a meal, do laundry, take a shower, and get connected with services. The article highlights how this casual style of programming is essential for vulnerable youth like Kory. “This was a place where you could come and talk and get help,” said Kory in the article.

Through LAYC’s services, Kory was connected to case management, safe housing, and employment. She now works part-time at SOP’s Drop-in Center, where she received services. Please see the linked article for more photos and details about Kory and SOP.

A donation of $25 can provide a three nutritious meals for a young person like Kory. Your support means the world to vulnerable youth who have nowhere else to turn.



Lori Kaplan
President & CEO


Marcus, after living in safe housing due to LAYC!
Marcus, after living in safe housing due to LAYC!

Dear Friend, 

Thank you for supporting homeless youth, especially around this holiday season. Please enjoy a letter from a former homeless youth named Marcus:

“My name is Marcus, I'm 21 years old, and I'm pursuing my post-secondary education in Information Technology. I've lived in the DC area my whole life. My grandfather did a lot of development in Columbia Heights and I knew the Latin American Youth Center was big in the community.

I first became homeless when I was 17 because my mother and I weren’t getting along and she kicked me out of her house. I went to a local family preservation program after that to try and make things right, but I turned 18 and they couldn't keep me any longer because I was a legal adult. I continued to be homeless after that. One day my stepfather dropped me off in a shelter parking lot over the weekend when they were closed. With no other choice, I slept in the shelter bus for two days.

While walking around in Columbia Heights on day, I saw this house on 15th street and was curious to see if it was an LAYC program. They welcomed me in to the Street Outreach Program. I was put on the housing waiting list and eventually moved into the Safe Housing Program for a year.

My future goals are to be gainfully employed in the IT field, and to eventually do research and mold myself into becoming an entrepreneur, perhaps by starting my own business enterprise. I want to acquire a college degree, possibly majoring in business and minoring in technology or journalism because I love writing. I want to be able to pursue my hobbies in poetry, spoken word, and community activism. SOP and the Safe Housing program has given me a place to recuperate from being homeless for such a long time. It gave me the opportunity to find a career interest and begin my studies in IT work. It has also allowed me to get my mental health back on track, and now I get consistent mental health treatment. Being in the Safe Housing program cultured me in life skills and involved me in the LAYC community. It taught me to have fortitude and to be self-directed in my life.”

LAYC’s Street Outreach Program staff outreach in the DC community to find homeless or unstably-housed youth and connect them with housing, just like Marcus. A donation to this program means that homeless youth can be kept safe during the cold winter months--just $50 provides emergency shelter for youth like Marcus.




Hunter at LAYC.
Hunter at LAYC.

"LAYC saved my life. They gave me a helping hand. I was completely alone," shares Hunter, age 21. Hunter came to LAYC through the Street Outreach Program, went on to complete job training at LAYC, and is now a student in LAYC's Bard College where she is working toward six college credits in the humanities. To meet Hunter is do a double-take of sorts. She sounds not unlike a graduate student defending a thesis as she speaks about her life, the current political climate, or issues of social justice. Her enthusiasm for learning is palpable.

One year ago, Hunter came to a crossroads. Her mother had fallen ill after years of drug use and related health problems, and she was staying with her estranged father and his new family. She became depressed, and soon after, homeless.

Today, Hunter is hopeful for the future and focused on continuing her college education.

"I've learned that it's okay to take a different road than the one I had expected to be on. I read somewhere that there is no authentic self. I used to question if I'd be the same person had I had a different upbringing. Now, I've learned that the challenges I've experienced, while painful at the time, have made me who I am. I'm learning to be happy and satisfied with life and more grounded," affirmed Hunter.

LAYC’s Street Outreach Program (SOP) staff outreach in the DC community to find homeless or unstably-housed youth and connect them with services, just like Hunter. Youth receive case management and counseling, access to housing and education, sexual health education services, and workforce development training. Case managers work one-on-one with youth to determine their individual needs and create a plan for the future.

A donation $10 can provide a winter survival kit for a youth like Hunter. Your support means the world to youth who are trying to get on their feet.  



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Organization Information

Latin American Youth Center

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Colleen Muse
Washington, DC United States
$10,280 raised of $11,000 goal
188 donations
$720 to go
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