Sebastian has had a difficult young life. Before he was 8, he was already taken from his mom twice and placed in foster care because of his mother’s drug use. “I was afraid I would never see her again,” he says.
In 2015, his mother, Claudia, came to Hope Gardens to turn her life around, so she could give Sebastian the love he craved and so she could be the mom he needed. But when Sebastian rejoined her at Hope Gardens, instead of joy, he felt angry.
“I didn’t know if they would take me away again,” he says. “And change is hard for me. Hope Gardens was so big. And there were so many people and kids I didn’t know.”
A Turning Point
Sebastian started lashing out at home and at school — fighting, cursing, kicking doors, and running away. His emotions could change in a matter of minutes. “I got really angry all the time and I couldn’t control it,” he recalls.
As his behavior worsened, his teachers at school and staff at Hope Gardens suspected something more was going on. Soon Sebastian was diagnosed with ADHD and high-functioning autism. Through therapy, medications, the loving support he got at Hope Gardens — and Claudia’s patience and love — Sebastian learned how to control his temper and emotions. He turned completely around, at home and at school.
He even started making friends with other kids at Hope Gardens. “I used to think I was the only one who got taken from their mom.
But other kids here were in foster care, too, just like me. I didn’t feel alone anymore,” he says.
“I love my mom and I’m really happy now.”
Because of his ADHD, however, Sebastian continued struggling with anxiety. Then one day, he volunteered to hold babies in our PEEPS program and discovered that babies have a calming effect on him! Soon he was a regular volunteer in PEEPS.
Thriving and Happy
Today, Sebastian, now 12, continues to thrive with his mom in their own home near Hope Gardens, a home they share with Sebastian’s best friend, Paco — a Chihuahua-mix dog he rescued from a shelter. “I know what it’s like to be rescued,” Sebastian says.
Because of his autism, Sebastian continues to struggle with anxiety and change. So he returns regularly to Hope Gardens to hold babies in PEEPs.
“I love my mom and I’m really happy now. Thanks to Hope Gardens, I know she’ll always be there for me. She’s why I am who I am,” he says.
And thanks to YOUR support, Sebastian has the chance to become the person God created him to be.
CHILDREN THRIVE AT UNION RESCUE AND HOPE GARDENS — THANKS TO YOU!
Union Rescue Mission is the only mission in Los Angeles that accepts single mothers and fathers with children, intact families, and even families with teenaged boys. And we will NEVER turn away a woman or child who needs our help.
Yet this summer, we need your support more than ever. Because of rising costs for housing and stagnant wages, a growing number of young families are devastated by homelessness and coming to Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens. The growing need is stretching our finances. Worse, every summer our donations fall. So your gifts are crucial today.
And your gifts really do make a difference. Thanks to you, children like Sebastian thrive in the safe, loving, nurturing environment of Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens.
“I always had hope that mom would get us back. I never gave up on her. Now I get to see her every day and I don’t have to worry anymore.”
— Ulises, 15
“I’m learning to love people again. I’m a good kid.”
— Isis, 16
“Skid Row feels like such a hopeless place and then you come to Hope Gardens where everything is full of life. There is women trying to get their lives back together and there is children laughing and playing and it was like going from a nightmare to a dream.”
— Jazzmine, 17
“I love everything about my dad. He’s always there for me whenever I needed him. I know a lot of kids who don’t have their dads, but I do. And I know he loves me. I’m really glad he’s my dad.”
— Michaeyla, 14
“I can’t help but wonder ‘how did this happened to us…my mom isn’t abusive, she’s not an alcoholic, she’s never done drugs…sometimes that’s the most difficult thing to deal with…realizing that there are times when your life isn’t in your hands. It’s really hard not having your own home.”
— Michelle, 17
“I hope next year me and my mom can secure an apartment or a house to make sure she has a roof over her head.”
— Jacob, 14
The number of children devastated by homelessness in Los Angeles is a heartbreaking tragedy. According to the most recent reports, more than 52,000 have no home — but the fastest growing demographic is women and kids, just like Sebastian. I just read that nearly 18,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District are classified as homeless.
For many of these children and families, there is no place for them to go — nowhere but Union Rescue Mission. Union Rescue Mission is the only mission in Los Angeles that helps single moms with kids, single dads with kids, two-parent families, and families with teenagers. Right now, more than 330 children call Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens “home” — and this summer, that number is growing almost every day.
But thanks to caring partners like you, there’s hope. Union Rescue Mission is currently planning to open a new satellite shelter in South Los Angeles to help meet the growing need. At the same time, however, the increased demand this summer is straining our finances. We simply cannot continue stepping up to meet the need without your faithful generosity. Please help provide children and families with hope and the chance to go home.