Determination, support and encouragement helped get this Valley College student off the street and on the path to helping others like him.
By Mickie Shaw, Multimedia Editor
The shouting could be heard from outside the apartment. Father and son were in an argument, their anger barely contained. Suddenly, he attacked his son. Not wanting to hurt his father, the young man backed away. His relationship with his father was one endless conflict, and it was turning violent. He couldn’t live with it anymore, so he left home for the second time — for good. With nowhere to go, he was homeless.
Michael Jaramillo was 19 years old and had nowhere to live. With only a baseball duffel bag to carry his few possessions, he started a perilous journey towards a new life. Laundromats and the park became places to sleep. Friends tried to help by sneaking him into their bedrooms at night when their parents were asleep; another friend let him sleep in his car. His friend would visit every night, hanging out and talking. Before he left, he would give the homeless youth a blanket and a pillow for the night. The next morning Jaramillo would lock up the car and go on his way.
“The worst times were if I had nowhere to go,” said Jaramillo. “I would just walk around until the morning time came. It was hard. It was hard.”
Jaramillo spent his childhood moving constantly from one location to another with his mother, stepfather, brother and other family members. They lived at various places in the San Fernando Valley, Palmdale and as far north as Oakland. Jaramillo’s father gained custody of him when he was in the eighth grade. It would just be him and his dad living together. The young teenager would have some stability and finally his own room, but there would be no peace. The verbal abuse would soon begin.
Living on the streets was hazardous; reciting Psalm 23:4 when he was fearful or in danger was a comfort.
“I would constantly remind myself of the Bible verse,” said Jaramillo with a smile. “I should trust that God is going to protect me through the night.” He proudly showed his necklace with a small cross made of little silver baseball bats, a gift from his girlfriend.
After a few months on the street, a mutual friend of his and his girlfriend (who is now homeless) brought them to The Village Family Services Drop-In Center. The center is also a shelter for transitional youth ages 14 to 25. Homeless youth can use the facilities, eat, look for a job, receive help enrolling in school and find internships. It was at the center he found a new home for the next three years, a job as a Peer Life Coach and a mentor — Evan Tischofer. Tischofer saw the potential in the young man and encouraged him to enroll in school.
Now 24 years old and a full time Valley student, he lives in his own apartment and is a child development major with a 3.5 grade point average. When working for Valley’s Helping Hands Project’s food pantry, he can be found at there twice a week giving out fresh vegetables, fruit, canned food and drinks. Jaramillo feels “blessed and grateful” for what he has been given and that he is able to help people going through homelessness.
“I feel that everything that happens to you can either make you or it can either break you,” said Jaramillo while his eyes started to tear up. “I made it, I actually made it.”