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Community Outreach

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Thomas Smith
Thomas Smith

A Place Called Home

Since then, a dynamic, multi-service youth and community center has evolved and grown on the corner of South Central Ave and 29th Street. For 30 years, A Place Called Home has been serving South Central youth ages eight to mid-twenties and their families through education and arts programs, mental health counseling, mentorship, job readiness, college scholarships, civic engagement, and more. At our core, we are still a place where young people who face tremendous challenges can experience the safety, joy, and opportunity that should be a part of every childhood.

A Place Called Home

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At APCH, young people define their values, develop their gifts, strengthen their skills, and build resources and relationships to realize their goals and aspirations. Along the way, they learn that their voices are important, and that they can contribute to making the world a better, more just and equitable place for everyone.

"I loved school [and] I mean, I would live for that free lunch. Teachers saw what was going on and did just a little bit more to help my siblings and I get through the day or the moment," Ambroz recalled.

"I have the best life," he said. "I'm so happy. I'm in a home that I own. I have a beautiful foster son who's in graduate school [at Cornell University]. My brother and sister are thriving. They have advanced degrees and beautiful, healthy families. I care for my mom. She's no longer homeless, but she's still, you know, fighting her demons ... and I'm an active member of my community."

Development for A Place to Call Home began after Bevan Lee completed his "domestic trilogy" (Always Greener, Packed to the Rafters and Winners & Losers).[4] He took inspiration from film director Douglas Sirk's 1950s films such as Written on the Wind (1956) and All That Heaven Allows (1955).[5] Lee told The Age that he wanted to create a romance-driven melodrama based in the 1950s because people's lives in the present are "relatively bland". He said: "At the end of the day, conflict is drama and we live in relatively conflict-free society. I had to go to a place where there was pain and damage and hurt; after the war there was."[6] The script is co-written by Lee and Trent Atkinson.[7]

Growing up homeless and in and out of foster care for 11 years, one of Ambroz's only solitudes was at the library, where he and his siblings would read through literacy programs. Many would write him off as a lost cause, but he defied the odds set against him by pursuing a higher education. He saw a college degree as a ticket out of the poverty-stricken life he knew, and he's now a high-level executive at a multinational company and an advocate for foster care and adoption.

Graduation takes place in an outdoor amphitheater built into a hill, with metal folding chairs leaning perilously forward in the grass. The sky is gray, threatening rain. We march in, capped and gowned. Vassar's colors, pink and gray, trim our gowns. Holly, Steve, Brianna, Ruth, and Jessica are somewhere in the audience, though I can't see them from where I sit. My mother isn't here. She has been homeless through most of my time at college and hard to keep track of, but I was able to reach her last night. \"I'm graduating, and it's because of you,\" I told her. I gave her credit to make her feel good, but also because it was partly true.

Given our upbringing, the fact that all three Ambroz kids had earned undergraduate degrees was a miracle. My mom played a part in both sides of that equation -- the difficult childhood, and the value placed on education. She threw us overboard and gave us our lifelines.

The next morning, I slowly drive my 1994 Chrysler out the stone arch of the main gate and onto Raymond Avenue. Upstate New York is in full bloom; the trees and even the weeds are vibrantly alive. It's twenty-six hundred miles to LA and I am going to law school, not as a vessel of the trauma that happened to me, but as an out gay man determined to hasten change. Driving down I-95, the sun on my back and spread through my eyes, I think of all my foster siblings, and other foster kids whom I met along the way. Their faces flash by in my mind. My heart presses toward them, hoping that they've made it too. My soul holds on to a hope that some have even made it out of the poverty and violence. That they are all safe and determining their future. Hope should be theirs too. I know that I'm not going to law school for me, I'm going with the determination to help them. To help get kids like me off the streets, to make sure they are never put through a system that grinds away hope. This mission gives meaning to everything I have seen and experienced. It will give shape to everything I do. Out of all the darkness, it becomes my home.

During the pandemic, APCH conducted a family needs survey of our constituents revealing that 76% of families reported the loss of a job or work hours since COVID-19; 58% of families have fallen behind on rent, and 62% have fallen behind on their utility bills; and 64% of families struggle to afford groceries for their families. In response to these pressures, APCH launched a basic needs initiative to provide groceries to families experiencing food insecurity and to provide direct cash assistance for rent and utilities to help prevent displacement for familes who may be challenged in accessing conventional public support. 041b061a72

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