Hi my name is Brandon Lee Wilson I am 20 years old. I am honored to have this opportunity to be here with you all, be a part of this community and to share with you my story.
I am a person who made something out of nothing. My mother kicked me out when I was only eleven years old. I have been homeless for seven years of my life and have been in and out of several out-of home placements (shelters and couch hopping). When I first heard of the Ain Dah Yung Center I was 14 years old.
The minute I stepped in the door I felt like I was HOME. I remember that the staff treated me like they knew me for years. They introduced me to everyone. Talked with me right away about the rules and guidelines, and treated me like I was an equal amongst them.
The Ain Dah Yung Center was not a shelter, in my eyes it was a safe haven. It was also a place that would not hesitate to acknowledge your accomplishments, or acknowledge when you’re slacking off. ADYC showed me that there ARE people that care. But me being young, I was still focused on the wrong things… so I left.
At the time, I felt like I wasn’t ready for the structure and the stability. I wasn’t ready to open up. I didn’t trust that they would understand what was happening to me. I felt like they were getting too close, and for me when people got too close…they eventually disappear.
The second time I came to the Ain Dah Yung Center shelter, I was 16 years old. This time I had obtainable goals – like staying in school, finding work, and getting my grades up… all things that I was working on so that I could move to the Youth Lodge… thus reaching a goal that I thought was untouchable, finding long term housing that was safe and stable.
My journey at the Youth Lodge included staff who understood me and knew what I was going through. They taught me about budgeting and credit cards, how to buy groceries and not overspend. They taught me how to interview for jobs so that I could actually get a job and not be nervous. We had weekly meetings where things were explained to me, the rules were consistent and I knew what to expect. The staff talked with us about using drugs and the realities of that world and life style. The Ain Dah Yung Center prepared me for real life.
It was at ADYC that I was able to start writing again, something that I started when I first became homeless as a young kid. It was my escape, my means to thrive… and now it is something that I get to share with other youth who are struggling.
Today I am a step-father of two beautiful kids: Alexzander, age 8 and Destiny, age 10. I’m in a wonderful relationship that’s now going on for four years. I have a nice three bedroom apartment on the Eastside of St. Paul. I work for Ramsey County Human Services as a customer service specialist and I’m also a workshop coordinator for a non-profit organization called the Irredusible Grace foundation, which works with vulnerable youth – especially those who are ageing out of foster care or state guardianship – to become successful adults. We assist youth to develop emotional trust in adults while planning and achieving their college career and life goals.
I appreciate all of the Staff at ADYC for all they have done to help and support me. I feel if it wasn’t for them I would not be the humble man I am today.
They will always be looked at as my family and a part of why I am someone who made something out of nothing.