Christian says even when it’s not mandated by the YouthBuild program he tries to organize his own volunteer events to give back to the community.
“A lot of us from experience have lived on the streets. We have lived with no home, no food, no shelter,” he said as he helped pass around healthy sandwiches and water bottles on a sunny fall day at the downtown shelter in Reno.
“I do this quite often,” he said. “I'm out here probably every month or so.”
A Life Without Any Stability
Christian says he lived on the streets from birth until he was five in San Jose. “It was just stuff happening with my family,” he remembers. “My mom ended up going to prison.”
His grandmother was able to get housing through the Reno Housing Authority so he moved to the Biggest Little City. But he said living on Neil Road where he ended up brought its own problems.
“I got around the wrong people. I was a smart kid. I could've graduated a year early, had scholarships, but I decided to mess around with the wrong people and it led me down the wrong path.”
His mother struggled again to make ends meet. “My mom just had gotten a house and she was struggling to feed my sister. My brother, he moved out. I moved out and I was just tired of seeing my family struggle, tired of them deciding whether they want to spend money on rent or buy food to feed my little sister.”
Turning his Life Around
When we met him, Christian said he was getting his GED, and preparing to apply to go to college and also joining the national guard.
“I've had a lot of bad happen in my life, but thanks for that, thanks to all my experiences, I am who I am today, so I don't think I regret anything,” he said.
He had more advice for youth who might be struggling. “You have the chance to change it. Go to school. I know it seems like a pain and nobody likes school, but it's just something you have to do. If you really want to succeed, go to a high school, graduate, you don't need to go to college, just make sure you have the basics so you can prevail in life,” he said.
Reporting by Prince Nesta with Photography by Jordan Blevins for Our Town Reno