And So Can You.

At Visioning Day on August 8, 2012, I made a commitment.  I committed to blog about what I saw, heard and felt.  I made this commitment in front of about 150 people, so here I am, keeping it.

And what I saw, were families, shelters, and other stakeholders coming together to share their ideas as to improve the homelessness situation. 47% of them were people who have experienced homelessness. The people who know the problems firsthand and the people who had to find their own solutions. The people we should really, really listen to.

What I heard were voices of all kind, rising above stereotype and misinformation, and committing to vote, write their legislators, attend workshops, and do so much more than their sanctioned obligations.

What I felt…well here, you feel it yourself:

This year’s winner of the Inspiring Leader Award is Ivette Arroyo. I challenge you to read her speech, feel the goose bumps that I felt and allow the tears that rolled down so many people’s cheeks upon hearing these words to roll down yours.  I challenge you to take a deep breath after you finish and give it chance to feel real, because it is.  I challenge you to see this story of success as one of the rule and not just an exception, because it is.

My name is Ivette Arroyo.  I was in shelter for over 12 months in 2010- 2011.  I have been in a hotel shelter, two scattered sites, and a family shelter.

I am a mother of three girls 15, 13, 10 and an 8 year old boy.

My homelessness came after a struggle with Domestic Violence and deep depression.  One depression set in, I lost.  Little by little, I lost.

After losing my amazing job, I became more and more depressed.  Eventually I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t help my kids, or myself.  I lost it all, lost my babies, my home, everything.  I was left to start from a place I never thought I’d find myself. The middle of nowhere.  ROCK BOTTOM.

For a while I felt hopeless, but….because I am a woman and because I am a mother…I pushed through.

I got into shelter and I got counseling to deal with the trauma that came with DV, family separation and mental health issues.

As I began to heal, I was able to begin to participate in different workshops like self defense, advocacy, financial literacy, parenting.  I was also able to set some goals around going back to school and work.

I was offered an internship.  First I worked at Homes for Families, there I learned how the system worked and made sure I did what I could to promote advocacy with the families within the shelter system.

When that internship ended, a domestic violence shelter offered me a shot at an internship so I took it on.

Shortly after, I, Ivette Arroyo, was asked to join their staff. My work had been recognized and someone had noticed, an entire team had noticed!

A year ago today, I was an intern at Homes for Families working the registration table. I was proud of myself then because I had accomplished a lot.

I had risen significantly from rock bottom and was helping others.  But today?  Wow. Today I stand before you as someone who continues to rise. And not only do I rise but I am fortunate enough to have a job that allows me to help other women rise up!

My family now works every day through the reunification and healing process and I have been housed for about a year.  What else can I say other than- I am lucky to feel so inspired by life and opportunity and I’m happy that I can inspire you.

So- I accept this Inspiring Leadership Award and I ask you to acknowledge the struggles, but focus on the inspiration you find around you, children, family, clients, goals…whatever the inspiration may be…and push through.  Because if I can, so can you.

So can you.

So can you, what?

What can you do?

Make a commitment, and do it.

Don’t forget to share it too!



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