Jay Perry, Research Assistant, Youth Action Hub
My name is Jay Perry; I’m 25 years old and I have lived in Hartford almost my whole life. I grew up in the DCF (Department of Children and Families) system. I was abandoned by my parents when I was only two months old because I was really sick, and I was placed in a foster home. Throughout my childhood and teens, I was placed in foster homes and then moved to new ones because a lot of the foster homes were short-term and because I still had some medical problems and required special care. I liked some of my foster families, but sometimes it was harder for me to adjust, because it was a new environment, new people, new everything.
One day when I was around 15 years old, I was removed from a foster home and placed in a group home because DCF felt it would be more appropriate for me to be around youth my age, and because I had behavior problems due to the fact that I was always being moved around. Being in a group home is different than a foster home because a group home is staffed and has other youth in the same age range. It’s kind of like a foster home, but with 2-3 staff. I stayed there for almost two years, even though they are usually just for 120 days, because I had medical conditions and no other place to go. Eventually I moved again to a new group home, but it wasn’t a medical group home and it was short term. I finally moved to a residential home because I started to have anxiety issues and my medical conditions became worse, so I went to a full-medical residential home. A residential home is a secure program run by 10-15 staff. It’s more structured: you are placed in a dormitory with 1-3 other people, and told what to do and when to do it, essentially guided by staff 24/7. There was a school and a dorm and a basic medical clinic all on the grounds, and you don’t ever go off-site except for certain doctor’s appointments or with approval and with staff. I stayed there until I aged out, which means that I turned 18 and could no longer be in the DCF system. I was able to move in with my grandma, but she passed away a year after I moved in, so I was on my own after that. I was homeless a few times, with no family that could help me out, so I managed by myself until I could get back on my feet.
I was able to enroll at Capitol Community College, but homelessness became a problem for me even there. I wasn’t able to keep going to classes while I was trying to find and stay in housing. After a stint at Job Corps in Massachusetts, I moved back to Hartford and enrolled at Goodwin College to try to finish up my degree. I started working part-time at Youth Action Hub (YAH), a youth-led center of participatory research and advocacy around ending youth homelessness in CT. My experience being homeless has proven useful for some of the projects we work on at the Hub, and I think it has made the people we interview feel more comfortable and understood. Working at the Youth Action Hub has allowed me to gain more contact with support systems, as I have continued to struggle with unstable housing, and the knowledge I have gained has made a big difference in my life. Goodwin College helped me with housing for a while, and I recently moved in to my own apartment in New Britain. In addition to working at YAH, I hold down two other jobs to try to make ends meet.
The information I’ve learned through YAH and the service organizations we work with have all made a difference in my life, and I thank them for that. I can relate to the situations that we are researching, and I’m proud to be a member of this group. I’ve come really far, I’ve met a lot of different supports and I have learned skills like networking and interpreting data. I’ve learned different strategies to solve problems, and how to think more critically in many situations. Ever since I started working at the Youth Action Hub, I’ve felt like part of a family.
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