By: Symonia Donaldson

Home is a place where loved ones stay and/or where the heart is, considering most of us were born under someone’s care. Whether or not it is biological or fostered, growing up with a place to call home -- temporary or permanent -- is crucial in a child’s development. 


 For many young adults like me, we lose our home but the memories never go away. My home is back in Milwaukee off North 15th street, but as time goes on, the memories fade and loved ones pass on, even my mother.  She left behind three kids in three different stages of life, in three different places. Briarpatch’s Transitional Living Program is the new start of “home” for me, but I cannot speak for the other residents, as they are in the program under different circumstances.

On move-in day, August 23, 2016, there were already four residents in the program with live-in staff and other full-time staff as well. I felt like an intruder in a stage of transition and doubt, including a creeping feeling of- “What is next?”, “What to do now?”, “What if…”, and a feeling of hopelessness because I did not have the support systems in place to help me figure out what to do next. That is where the program was supposed to step in, but it did not at first. Management was changing and I was trying to start my first year in college. Now those two things really had nothing to do with each other, but what I did not realize is claiming yourself as an independent does not mean you have to be alone. When Robin Sereno took the place of Tyler Schueffner as the main manager of the Transitional Living program, I am sure she felt the same as I did, like an outsider.

Countless times before, I walked into yet another ‘safe haven’ with my bags, burdens and the same attitude I had when I left  the other residential programs; ready for a new beginning, scared shitless and almost in tears because I did not have to sleep in another stranger’s home knowing my options were becoming limited. I figured if it did not work out I could always build a home out of cardboard box and aluminum foil. Taking residency in the Transitional Living program helped me learn to settle into a place I originally felt I did not belong.  

It is imperative that anyone who is in danger of or is chronically homeless has a network of support systems in place to help them, especially those young people who are looked to as the future of our communities. Sometimes with luck, hope and in spite of many empty promises, many find a way to support themselves. But for people like me, with multiple adversities in life, at home, at school and even out on the street, I will forever be looked upon as a has-been, could-have-been, or should-have-been. But what I am not is a failure. I have not given up, and I have not let those adversities take me down. What I am is a black female that has been through what seems to be hell and back, and I am forever grateful for places like Briarpatch Youth Services. They helped me see the beauty, aspirations and difference I can make, just by being a part of its support network, designed for youth like me.

 Symonia "Sammy" Donaldson is currently a resident of Briarpatch's Transitional Living Program (TLP) house. She is enrolled in the Liberal Arts transfer program and is in the process of applying to the Radiography Program with a long-term goal of attending UW-Madison.

For more information on the TLP, click here.