Empowered young people create a better society for all

From time to time, Larkin Street alumni reach out to us to let us know the impact our programs had on their lives. Melissa, who used our services in the ’80s, got in touch with us through email recently and told us how our programs and staff helped to nurture her resiliency.

I ran away from home when I was 15 and lived on the streets until I was 19 years old.

My friends and I lived in an excavated hole in the ground near the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco back in the ’80s. We panhandled all day and if we were lucky, we’d get enough money for food.

One day, my friend told me about Larkin Street Youth Services. She said that I could get a meal voucher if I talked to a counselor in their drop-in center. I didn’t care or want to talk to a counselor, I just wanted the meal voucher. So for months, I’d go there everyday, sit with her for an hour, then grab my voucher and leave.

But my counselor was persistent. She talked to me everyday even when I wasn’t listening or responding. It felt like I was scamming them for the voucher but I was at a point in my life where I didn’t trust anybody – especially someone who had never experienced what I had gone through.

After months and months of meeting with her to get the voucher, I finally started listening to what she had to say and we developed a friendship. It was amazing to me that she still let me back in each day and accepted what little communication I had to offer. Even when I yelled at her, she never made me feel as if I was a waste of time.

Larkin Street was really important to me because it was one of the first times I took the risk to actually talk to someone. I learned there that I wasn’t beyond help.

When I was 18, I got my GED and then a year later, I got pregnant and left San Francisco. I always wanted to be a prosecutor but people told me that college wasn’t for me especially because I had to raise a kid at the same time. But after everything I’d been through, I wasn’t going to give up.

I went to a women’s college. For whatever reason, I just needed to be around strong women and being there really helped build me up. When my son was 12, I went to law school.

After law school, I spent eight years as a prosecutor. I defended victims of sex offenders and child abuse. Today, I run my own practice. I’ve definitely come full circle.

There’s nothing special about me. The one thing different about me is I had a couple of people including my Larkin Street counselor and professors, who were persistent, cared about me and believed that I deserved a better future even when I didn’t think I did.