"I Am Neighbor" - Yvette

As I sat talking to Yvette in the living room of her Bethany Housing apartment I was struck by just how clean everything was. In her kitchen the white tiled floor was sparkling, dazzlingly white, a shock to the eyes after the dull gray morning sky outside. Here in the living room, the beige carpet was fuzzy, spotless. Her apartment was clean, almost too clean, at least, cleaner than you would expect from a 21-year-old living on their own for the first time.

    It came as no surprise to find out that Yvette was a janitor at a local school. She gets paid to clean, so the spotlessness of her apartment made a little more sense. Yvette moved into her Bethany Housing apartment in May 2015, after being on the waiting list for a few months. She was excited to finally live independently. “It was a blessing because of everything I went through. Most young adults aren’t ready to be adults, but I was ready--physically ready, mentally ready.”
    Yvette has been through a lot. She was adopted at a young age “My parents gave my siblings and I up for adoption because they want me to be better than them”, she tells me, “It was to help  me, my sisters and brothers out.” Yvette’s adoptive mother then died when Yvette was 8 years old, and so she was taken in by an aunt. She has struggled with feelings of resentment towards her birth parents, but has recently reconnected with them. “Now I look back and think I could've been in jail, in the grave, or something like that but instead look where I am today! Look at how I was raised and brought up. I have no kids, I have my own place, have gone to college, have a full-time job, and now I look on the positive side of it. No negativity.”
    Yvette bounced around a few different schools but finally settled at Muskegon High School and connected to Community enCompass through its Youth Empowerment Project (YEP). The program  aims to equip young people with the tools and encouragement to become leaders within their communities. YEP opened Yvette up to opportunities like mentoring younger children through  an after school program and CATCH Camp, a summer day camp for children.  As a YEP, Yvette also worked with a team of 4 other young YEP women on the rehab of a residential home  Community enCompass rehabbed to sell, learning  skills in construction and rehabbing. “That project taught me how we can bring a community together and build something great. I really liked that.”

Yvette in her Bethany Housing Program apartment.

Yvette in her Bethany Housing Program apartment.

The YEP program also helped to Yvette become college-ready. Although she has put her formal education on hiatus, she is close to completing a degree in Early Education with Criminal Justice, and she also recently enrolled in a local cosmetology school. Ultimately, Yvette wants to work within the prison system, as she sees it as a way to be able to give back to the community. However for Yvette, just like most young adults, being able to finish school, and be financially independent is close to impossible.

Yvette doesn't want to take out a loan. “It will get you in the long run,” she says referring to the high-interest rates on monthly payments. So, she studies and works. In the past, she has worked two jobs while also going to  classes. Her current 2nd shift janitorial job allows her to cover her bills and live comfortably, but it also conflicts with the times the majority of college classes are  taking place. She sums up the predicament many youth face today,  “College can't pay your {immediate} bills. I wanna go back, but right now I can’t.”

Yvette is being wise: working hard, paying her bills, and staying away from debt and loans. She’s even saving a little money, but this hasn't always been of benefit. A lack of loans, car payments, credit card payments can lead to bad credit. Landlords often won’t  rent to those with bad credit, so despite working hard, saving money and making wise decisions, she struggled to find a place to call her own until she contacted Community enCompass.  Our Bethany Housing Program helps provide units to people who have low  credit scores or can't find a reliable cosigner, instead looking at proof of income and rental history to gauge suitability for the program. For the last year and a half, Yvette has been a model tenant and neighbor.

    Yvette is a strong, independent, fearless young African American woman, with a bright future ahead of her. We are so glad to call her neighbor!