Nadya beamed, “My mother says it is like a miracle, what I have done. She had no hope for me.”
Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. It’s also an example of the impact Hillcrest Platte County’s Young Adult Housing program is having in the Northland.
When a troubled and homeless Nadya realized she wasn’t happy with the crowd she was running with and the choices she’d been making, she sought a change.
With few options, Nadya turned to Hillcrest to find a new path and the results, in just five months, are impressive.
When Nadya, 20, moved into the agency’s apartments in Platte City, she didn’t have a high school diploma and her career prospects were bleak, but she knew she wanted a stable life.
“I was not motivated,” she said. “I had no goal. I did not have a relationship with God. I sort of ran back to him.”
Now, with her high school diploma completed and closing in on a certified nursing assistant (CNA) certification, Nadya has landed a succession of jobs and sees a bright future ahead.
She started by earning a diploma at A Turning Point Academy in Northmoor and looks forward to finishing her CNA training by month’s end at Golden LivingCenter-Smithville
Nadya parlayed that success into a full-time job at Hillview Nursing in Platte City. She’s also taken up playing guitar, somewhat to her astonishment, but she’s not alone in charting a better life.
Hillcrest’s Young Adult program serves homeless, and often rudderless, 18- to 24-year-olds, including children who’ve aged out of the foster care system and have nowhere else to turn.
The program was a long-held ambition for Hillcrest, but one that was spurred into reality and off the drawing board after a counselor from the Platte County R-3 School District called hoping to place a student in the nonprofit’s housing program in October 2016.
Eight of nine students in need had been placed elsewhere and the last student landed in Hillcrest Platte County’s Transitional Housing Program, a 90-day lifeline for the working homeless in Platte County that focuses on life skills and budgeting, but Hillcrest wanted a more flexible program for young adults.
During the next 10 months, Hillcrest renovated two buildings, creating 10 apartments, and the Young Adult program officially opened in August.
“Two (former residents) have graduated, four are working on a high school diploma, and there are five in the program now,” said Debbie Williams, program director of the Young Adult Housing program. “We plan to expand into southern Platte County at some point.”
Residents usually share apartments, but each roommate has a private bedroom with a lock. The goal is to survive and thrive.
Unlike the Transitional Housing Program, there is no 90-day time limit with the Young Adult program. Each participant selects a track — college, trade school, or some other career path — and that determines how long the resident needs to stay at Hillcrest.
Nadya chose CNA training and eventually hopes to become a surgical technologist, but other Hillcrest residents are studying massage therapy or medical esthetician.
“We want them to go where they want to go,” Williams said. “We hope they build skills. We guide them, but it’s their work.”
Juggling work and school with her new regimented life at Hillcrest already has taught Nadya beneficial lessons, like time management and accountability.
Hillcrest provides Nadya with a utilities-paid, furnished apartment for a small monthly rent contribution along with access to its food pantry, transportation for school and work, and weekly life-skills training.
In return, Nadya and other residents in the Young Adult program, who sign a contract agreeing to obey certain guidelines, are required to get and keep a job.
In addition to the small rent payment, they’ll use $20 from their income each week to buy meat and produce, which helps them learn to budget and manage a bank account — down to the penny.
Hillcrest keeps track of program participants’ money, which may seem rigid, but it’s hard to argue with the results. Nadya already has socked away $3,000 to buy a car and is taking driving lessons.
Working with counselors, each resident is “graded” weekly on several factors, such as budgeting, employment, and class attendance. Residents start with 100 points and have to avoid too many deductions, which may result in probation.
“We do hold them accountable through a point system,” Williams said.
Of course, there are also extended privileges for keeping a high “grade,” like an extended curfew and a small stipend for going to movies or grabbing McDonald’s.
Williams has been with Hillcrest Platte County since 2012, when she started as a case manager with homeless families in the Transitional Housing Program.
She invests herself in each participant and is a staunch advocate of Hillcrest’s success at changing lives for the better by offering a real hand up.
“We will walk alongside them,” Williams said. “We see the potential, point out the potential. What I love about Hillcrest is the ‘yes, you can’. It is so neat to watch them grow into self-sufficiency, trained to pick themselves up and continue.”
How to help Hillcrest
Hillcrest Platte County has myriad ways to help further it’s mission, including volunteering at one of its two thrift shops — Hillcrest Thrift South Platte, 6520 N.W. Prairie View Road in Kansas City, and Hillcrest Thrift Platte City, 1305 Branch St.
The stores provide financial backing for the Transitional and Young Adult housing programs, which also rely on donations and a cadre of volunteers to meet community needs.
Even with all the community support, it’s a massive undertaking for Hillcrest, which urgently needs a volunteer van driver among other things.
For more information, visit Hillcrest Platte County’s website: http://hillcrestplatte.org/how-you-can-help/