Mazer* first came to Catholic Charities’ Hope Street Shelter in 2012—memories are fresh, though she has come so far since you provided her a stable place to grow four years ago.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” she said while sitting in an office at the shelter recently. The young woman has returned to Hope Street not because she is in need, but to give back.
A college student working toward a Bachelor in Social Work, Mazer is at Hope Street as an intern. She also works full-time as a youth advocate at Youth Link. In her new role, Mazer leads an art group Saturday and Sunday nights, gets feedback from youth who are staying at Hope Street and reaches out to Hope Street alumni.
Eric Richert , a program manager at Hope Street, said Mazer brings a valuable perspective to youth there.
“The youth know she’s been through it; there is some immediate trust there,” Richert said. “She shows the youth here that there is a path toward stability.”
While Mazer is the first former client to intern at Hope Street, many youth maintain contact with Hope Street staff long after they leave the program.
Mazer is enjoying the view from this side of the desk.
“I want to be able to walk in my past and be able to come in and realize—this is my past but it isn’t my future,” she said.
Mazer came to Hope Street at an unstable time in her youth. She had engaged in high risk behaviors and got into trouble with the justice system. A police sergeant actually connected her to the shelter. She still is in contact with that same sergeant, and others on the police force, but now in a positive way. Law enforcement has become one of her dreams for the future.
“I hope I can create a unit or department to work with youth who have a mental health diagnosis,” she said.
Mazer is confident her goals are achievable and, while careful to never say never, believes she never again will be without a place to call home.
“My support network is stronger. Financially, I’m stronger,” she said. “There’s always a way out, it’s up to you to take that chance.”
* Name has been changed.