News & Success Stories

Recognized Partners across San Diego County are the driving force behind the strength, reach and impact of the Live Well San Diego vision. Read their inspiring success stories below.

Urban Street Angels Turns a Life of Struggle Into One of Opportunity

Post Date:05/09/2023 11:19 AM

May News Urban Street Angels 3x1 

By Kevin Ledgard, Chief Financial Officer, Urban Street Angels


Shawn enrolled in the Urban Street Angels Just Be U program in late 2022 with a long background of traumatic experiences and a future threatened by unresolved mental health barriers. As a child, he had lost both of his parents in a motorcycle accident. His grandmother bravely took on the primary parenting role, but she was eventually unable to care for Shawn when dementia led to her own placement in a care facility. At 17 years old, Shawn felt lost and untethered with no consistent, reliable support system.

Shawn had abandoned efforts to forge a healthy therapeutic relationship on several occasions and suitable treatment plans for his psychosis and schizophrenia diagnoses seemed inaccessible. Hope had been lost and Shawn didn't know where to turn.

Within days of his arrival in the Just Be U program, however, the tide had begun to turn. Shawn felt safe and secure enough to let his guard down. He began opening up to program staff and started experiencing day-by-day progress. Staff members quickly began to notice his natural leadership emerge within his Just Be U cohort and his personal accountability and work ethic became more consistent.  He had a positive effect on other program clients and actively participated during client engagement activities and events. Over time, it became clear that his time in the program was going to pay dividends -- in fact, Shawn graduated from the Just Be U program the same week he received notification of his acceptance into the Youth Opportunity job skills training program.

Converting Struggles Into Wins

Shawn’s journey wasn’t without struggle. Along the way, he had a few minor setbacks. But during these challenging times, he learned to convert struggles into wins. Although it hasn’t always been easy during his journey from the streets, he hasn’t given up on himself -- to squander the hope and opportunity he had cultivated over the last few months. When his medical provider forgot to submit a critical prescription, Shawn did not give up. When his expanding knowledge of budgeting and financial responsibility fell short and he mismanaged his savings, he did not give up. And when his timeline to permanent supportive housing was negatively affected by unanticipated factors, he did not give up.

Shawn leveraged the hope and opportunity provided by the Urban Street Angels Just Be U program by actively participating in its various groups, outings, meetings and services. He has come a long way in his therapeutic journey and has been able to share his insights with peers in the program’s shared living environment. He has allowed broken bonds of trust to be restored and has “bought in” on his own future. He has prepared himself better than ever before to stay off the streets and to positively contribute to the community that he had felt detached from for so long. Most importantly, he has worked diligently to overcome the stigma that is too often associated with the treatment of mental illness.

The Printshop Gets a New Manager

Shawn was recently hired as a printshop manager in the joint venture cafe/printshop that Urban Street Angels launched earlier this year called Timmy’s Place Pizzeria and Print Shop. This exciting business plan, operating in partnership with the Union of Pan Asian Communities (and with the strategic support of the County of San Diego Behavioral Health Services), will provide vital, paid job skills training and employment opportunities for transitional age youth in programs like Just Be U.

Shawn has a bright future thanks to programs like Just Be U that work to support the Live Well San Diego vision by disrupting the pathway to chronic, institutionalized homelessness and changing lives forever.

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