The following post was presented by the author as testimony during the 2022 DC Department of Human Services budget hearings. The text format has been modified for online viewing.
Good afternoon members of the Council:
First, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.
My name is Troy Harris and I am a former client of Sasha Bruce Youthwork, a current Sasha Bruce employee, and a founding and current member of the Sasha Bruce Youth Advisory Council also known as the Curb.
Our goal is to educate young adults on how to access and utilize resources to ultimately prevent homelessness.
The topic I really want to talk about specifically today is mental health care.
We truly need more support and resources for young people to be able to access mental health services.
I think funding abundant mental health resources is such an important topic in our community specifically for young Black kids who often experience the aging out of the system and all the ramifications from homelessness that coincide with that.
I want to just open up today by honoring and paying tribute to a friend of mine who I just recently lost due to his battle with depression. This young person’s life was cut short but he could have been saved if resources were made available to him.
I would also like to tell you all a little bit about my own story, which includes my personal struggle with my mental health, specifically anxiety and depression.
I grew up in a community that had a lot of poverty.
I experienced both the juvenile justice and child and family services systems in DC firsthand.
I saw and was put through a lot of negative situations at a very young age. All of this had an impact on my own mental health. It has been a rough journey at times.
I felt overwhelmed and alone.
There were moments when I didn’t want to open up to anybody because of the stigma around asking for help to care for my own mental health.
As a young Black man in my community, reaching out for help can be really hard. You can face ridicule and misunderstanding.
I hope the Council will take my recommendation, which is that we need to make it much easier for Black youth to access continuous mental healthcare to deal with the struggles we experience on a daily basis.
We need to fund programs like the one that impacted my mental health in a positive way.
When I first came to the Drop in Center at Sasha Bruce I immediately felt comfort, love, and I was truly welcomed by so many caring individuals
Everyone there was ready to help me.
I received counseling at the Sasha Bruce Drop in Center that helped me deal with my anxiety and depression.
This experience of having mental health resources transformed me. I went from being angry, nervous, and doubting my abilities to loving myself and feeling confident with who I am.
I developed integrity and now hold myself to a standard of accountability in all my actions.
None of this would have been possible without the comprehensive mental health services I received at the Sasha Bruce Drop In Center.
My therapist came once each week and they made it easy for me to meet with her directly at the Drop in Center, which I was already going to every day.
For this reason, I am asking the council to consider funding the mobile mental health clinic for youth experiencing homelessness.
In my experience, youth want these services but we often struggle to access them.
Trekking across the city to unfamiliar neighborhoods and waiting for lengthy times between referrals and first appointment often impacts motivation and follow through.
Also, many of the existing programs fail to address the unique trauma of youth experiencing homelessness. A mobile mental health team, staffed by qualified, trauma-informed, youth friendly clinicians will ultimately improve outcomes among participating youth.
I want my peers and others who have walked the same journey that I have to be able to access the care and support that will help them to stabilize and succeed.
We all deserve that! I appreciate your time and your support today. Thank you.
About the Youth Advisory Council
The Youth Advisory Council, also known as the CURB, serves to elevate the voice of formerly homeless youth and to empower young people to be the change they want to see.