Sasha Bruce Youthwork

There is an invisible population among us.  They are in our sons’ and daughters’ classrooms, sitting next to us on the bus, spending the night on our couches—and though we see them everyday we rarely know who they are and what they are going through.  Youth homelessness is a major problem in DC and because we typically associate the face of homelessness to destitution or mental illness, we don’t realize that the problem is more real and more present than we could ever imagine.  Every year, Sasha Bruce Youthwork serves hundreds of youth who face living outdoors.  The work is great and the hands are few, so the more you are aware, the more you (no matter who you are and what your age) can take action to make change possible.  My words can only do so much to show you the real needs our youth have, so I hope that you are inspired by Jasmine Williams, who courageously shares her story in the words to follow.

My Name is Jasmine Williams by Jasmine Williams

Do you know what it’s like to look to someone for support and care, only for them to betray your trust? Unfortunately, I do, and I learned this at a very early age. When I was 14 years old, I was raped by my stepfather. It was a traumatizing experience, one that led to my grades dropping, my relationships with my family turning sour, and a loss of hope. His abuse didn’t stop, but worsened.  He continued to molest me, beat me, verbally and mentally abuse me until I had become a completely different person. I was now cold and angry, a high school dropout, violent and pugnacious. I had given up on any dream I’d had of becoming something beautiful, something great.

When I turned 17, my stepfather decided that once my eighteenth birthday arrived, I was no longer welcome in his house. I had no family or friends to stay with, so I was in danger of being homeless. One day in June of 2009, I found Sasha Bruce and started going through the interview process needed to get in.

The very next day my life began to change, and in one year, I graduated from high school an honor roll student, got my first job, started saving money, and applying for college. Now I’m a Sasha Bruce employee, giving back to the organization that saved my life, and looking forward to starting school in the fall. More importantly, I am well on my way to becoming the person I had once dreamed I would be.

Since becoming a part of the Sasha Bruce family, one of the most rewarding things I’ve done is give back; I volunteer for the agency as often as I can, whether I’m sharing my experiences with others, painting one of the organization’s facilities, or helping out at the emergency shelter they run. I feel so good about myself when I know I’m helping others, but I feel even better when I meet people my age who  want to help kids like me.

he mission of Sasha Bruce Youthwork is to improve the lives of runaway, homeless, abused, and neglected and at-risk youth and their families in the Washington area. We achieve this by providing shelter, counseling, life skills training and positive youth development activities to approximately 1,500 youth and 5,000 family members each year. Sasha Bruce Youthwork seeks to support and empower vulnerable young people and families.