Miguel knew things were going wrong when he couldn’t stay awake in his high school Spanish class.
In reality, the Spokane native had realized much earlier that his life wasn’t as secure as it should be. Family turmoil and the divorce of his parents when he was only 2 years old left him living with grandparents and, as he recalls, “being without rules or structure.”
“I had trouble focusing,” Miguel remembers. “There was a lot of family drama.”
Despite the hurdles, which included his dad struggling with substance abuse, Miguel managed to maintain good grades in middle school and stay out of trouble. Yet near the start of his freshman year in high school, the death of his grandfather – after a long battle with cancer – set him back even further.
Before long, he realized his grandmother was not in an emotional state to properly care for him. Bills were not getting paid. The water was shut off and the electricity nearly was, too.
“I felt kind of hopeless,” Miguel recalls. “My personal life was really breaking down.”
Miguel wound up living with another relative but ran away three times and saw his grades and attendance drop off significantly. He was removed from school but returned for his junior year. When his report card showed him failing nearly all of his classes, Miguel dropped out. Severe depression and anxiety followed.
“I basically locked myself in my room,” he says. “I learned from that experience that if someone in my life ever did that, I would check up on them. I promised myself that.”
By the time his senior year approached, Miguel wasn’t sure what to do. A friend told him about a GED curriculum through the On Track program. He took a preliminary test and did well. Soon, his confidence was increasing. “After I passed that first test, it felt great,” he said. “I wondered if I felt this good passing one test, how good is it going to feel to pass all of them?”
Later, Miguel enrolled in the Next Generation Zone program where academics became his refuge. Couch hopping at this point, Miguel would spend eight hours a day studying but not knowing where he might be staying the following week.
“I felt like I was in a race for stability,” he said.
As the winter of 2016 arrived, Miguel was living in the basement of a friend’s house in Spokane Valley but working on the north side of town. The bus rides were long and the snow and ice that built up over the next few months didn’t help the situation. In early January, Miguel found himself without a job and with another onset of depression.
“It was not a good situation,” he said.
While seeking resources, Miguel was referred to SNAP by an employee at Next Generation Zone. He set an appointment at the agency’s Homeless Services office in downtown Spokane and met Housing Specialist Candi Poe.
Poe worked with Miguel as part of the Rapid Rehousing program and also helped him establish increased accountability.
“Candi was honestly one of the biggest influences in helping me,” Miguel said. “She would give me lists for things, like getting to work on time, going grocery shopping, getting to my appointments on time, following through on things.”
SNAP was able to find Miguel reliable housing in a local triplex by early May. The residence is much closer to his current job. For the first time in his life, Miguel realized he didn’t have to worry about a roof over his head. In June, he earned his GED and now has a goal to become an anesthesiologist.
“Having housing made me feel like an adult with responsibility,” Miguel said.
Now 19, Miguel still stops by SNAP Homeless Services for follow-up appointments. It’s a safety net he’s learned to count on for advice, encouragement and unwavering support.
“Candi has helped keep my stable,” Miguel says. “She’s helped me through this. Without her, I’m not sure where I’d be today.”