CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A nonprofit organization is helping youth in crisis get back on their feet.
What You Need To Know
A nonprofit organization helps youth in crisis with education, employment, housing, community life functioning, health and safety
The Relatives serves some LGBTQ young adults in their programs
Imoney Cooper, who is part of the LGBTQ community, turned to The Relatives for help to find housing
The Relatives serves youth between the ages of 7 and 24 who don’t have anywhere else to turn. Some of them have run away from home, are homeless or are waiting foster care placement.
The young adults receive support through programs at two different locations: the Relatives Crisis Center and the On Ramp Resource Center.
The Relatives Crisis Center serves 7 to 17 year olds, providing them with shelter, family counseling, parenting classes and walk-in counseling.
The On Ramp Resource Center is for 16 to 24 year olds. The organization offers GED tutoring, case management, help finding employment and housing, among other services.
At the center, young adults also have access to showers, laundry, clothing, snacks and computers.
“We sort of act as their family, as their relatives so to speak to help them get the job, get the education so they can become independent,” The Relatives Executive Director Trish Hobson said.
Since October 1, 24% of the young adults they have served in this age group identify as LGBTQ. Imoney Cooper is one of them.
Cooper works full-time in retail. However, the 22-year-old and her girlfriend are homeless at the moment. The couple sleeps outside the house of one of Cooper’s family members.
“No situation that I’m in tears me down. I always keep the light in my eyes and keep going forward,” Cooper said.
She turned to the organization for help finding a place to live.
“This is a place that was helping out my aunt and her and her baby, in her situation. I felt this place would actually give me a chance to be where I want to be in my life,” Cooper said.
As part of the housing program, the organization helps young adults find rental properties. It takes a look at the income and expenses of participants and develops a budget. In addition, the nonprofit fronts housing-related expenses, including security deposits, utilities or rent participants can’t afford at the time. On average, the group provides subsidies to young adults for up to a year.
Cooper served in the U.S. Army for four years after finishing her contract. The veteran said she tried accessing benefits through Veteran Affairs but found the process frustrating.
“I was waiting pretty much the entire time to speak to somebody, give them my information and that was about it," Cooper said.
She said she's felt welcome since the first moment she walked into the center.
“They didn’t know who I was. They didn’t know where I was coming from, but as I said they had open arms as soon as I walked through the door,” Cooper said.
For her, this is a contrast to her interactions with landlords when she was trying to find housing on her own. Cooper said landlords gave her glaring looks when she shared her story and didn’t call her back after their initial meetings.
“They might look up and down from the bottom of your shoes all the way to the top of your head and still don’t see you as a person. They just see you as gay and see you as an object,” Cooper said.
Hobson said making them feel they have someone in their corner is important.
“We help them feel accepted and feel valued and make sure they understand, we know we are worthwhile. We know they can accomplish big things,” Hobson said.
Cooper is a musician who describes her music as R&B and Soul. She dreams of changing the world with her music.
“My heart is definitely in music,” Cooper said.
At the On Ramp Resource Center, she’s also been able to find a space to record her music and access basic necessities when she’s unable to do so in the home of another family member.
Cooper describes her family as supportive, but she said they can’t always help financially.
Hobson said in other cases, some of the LGBTQ people who reach to their organization are homeless because their family kicked them out once they shared their sexual orientation.
If you or someone you know need assistance, contact The Relatives at 704-501-8252 or visit their website.