Supporting the Vulnerable

Photo: JFNA

A first-person account by Michael

Growing up wasn’t easy for me. Right after birth, my parents separated. My mother, I guess, she fell into a depression. One day, I was attending Jewish People’s Public School and I was waiting around for her and she never showed up so I was very curious and I called my grandparents and they came and got me and that’s when I found out that she had passed away. It wasn’t until years later that I found out that my mother’s death was a suicide from a drug overdose.

I was devastated. I lost the closest and really only person I had at the time. I didn’t have my father in my life so I was kind of left in the dark. Between the ages of nine and 11, my grandfather had passed away and my grandmother, who I had been living with, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. There was, in the end, a custody battle over me between my father and my aunt but I chose to stay with my father because I knew that it would tear him apart if I left and I stayed with him until I was about 14 years old. We didn’t have a great relationship; there was a lot of fighting involved. I was placed in respite family care and afterwards I was put in a temporary foster home.

Because the foster home’s mandate is until the age of 18, afterwards I was pretty much left on my own. My first year on my own was very rough. I had to survive and I had to fight for money and food and so on.

I was flipping through the paper and I saw an ad for the Jewish federation in the Jewish newspaper and I decided it can’t hurt and I got in contact with Ometz. They helped provide me with a stable location to live. They helped me with food, you know, if I didn’t have. They arranged everything so I wouldn’t have anything to worry about. My Ometz worker helped me find part-time work. A few months later, another job opened up, one that was full-time, which I was very glad to accept.

Federation CJA is definitely acting as a second family right now for me. They are replacing a lot of people who are missing in my life. I have a very good relationship with my Ometz worker and I know I can turn to her for anything and she will be there. She has my best interests at heart and we are very open and trusting with each other. And now that I have an organization helping me, I’m not afraid to move forward in my life.

Federation CJA allocated $4,412,000 (includes poverty relief fund)

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