“It feels like more of a home, where I am now. I’m comfortable here,” says Leticia, who joined First Place in 2017.
For Leticia, home and comfort have not always been synonymous. Both of her parents struggled with substance abuse, and Leticia found herself bounced back and forth between them for years. By the time she was 14 she had been separated from her younger sisters, who had entered the foster care system. While her sisters were placed in to long-term kinship care with an aunt and uncle, Leticia continued to live with her father, but their relationship was strained and unstable. It reached a point when she felt she could not stay in the home any longer.
She couldn’t go to her aunt and uncle. As foster care providers, she knew they would be required to report her to social services, who she was sure would return her to her father. At 16 years old, Leticia became a runaway.
Still, she tried to make the best decisions she could in her situation to keep bettering her life. She continued going to school because, she explains, “I didn’t want to be a bad influence for my sisters since we mean a lot to each other.”
Her school eventually discovered Leticia’s status and gave her the opportunity to talk to a social worker. After hearing her story the social worker agreed that Leticia should be in foster care. Once the decision was made, it was only a matter of days before she was in the care of her aunt and uncle and reunited with her sisters.
When she turned 18, Leticia chose to stay in foster care but moved into a transitional housing program in Sacramento to experience more independence. Things started off well, but Leticia was one of the youngest residents of the program, and she found it difficult to get support from staff when she needed it. She also struggled with being so far away from her friends and her sisters.
“I decided to come back to San Jose,” Leticia says, “I lived with my boyfriend for a month before my social worker told me about First Place. I got into the program really quickly, and it’s been great!”
From her first day in First Place, Leticia has exhibited incredible determination to succeed and has stayed focused on her goals, at one point working two jobs. She has also continued to be fully committed to continuing her education. With the help of her First Place team Leticia enrolled in West Valley Community College where she is now taking courses preparing her for a career in law enforcement.
While Leticia is a responsible tenant who takes pride in maintaining her apartment, her feelings of home and comfort aren’t just about a place. They come from having people she can count on. Her First Place team knows that when Leticia has questions or needs help, she’ll reach out for guidance, and Leticia in turn knows that they are there for her. “I love the fact that they trust us and let us be independent,” she says of First Place staff, “but they all come around when you need them.”