Eric B. has an infectious laugh and a beaming smile that lights up a room. Like so many other young people experiencing homelessness, he endured hard times in search of three things: stable housing, economic opportunity, and a community of support.

Poverty and hardship defined Eric’s childhood—paying rent and having enough food constantly worried his family. At sixteen, he left home with little choice but to support himself. Seeing his parents work so hard to make ends meet instilled a strong work ethic in Eric. Yet, despite a full-time job, he struggled to pay his bills.

“Whatever I am doing…I try to go above and beyond,” said Eric. “But sometimes that isn’t enough. That doesn’t translate. I was struggling, couch-surfing, and just trying to make it work.”

Eric always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and Seattle’s booming tech culture felt promising. Eager for a new chapter in a city well known for opportunity, he mustered every ounce of courage and took a chance: he bought a plane ticket, leaving him with just six dollars in savings.

Eric arrived in Seattle completely alone. As the sun set on his first night, and everything around him looked unfamiliar, he realized he needed immediate help to be safe. By a stroke of fate, Eric walked into Recovery Café, a resource center close to YouthCare’s Orion Center. He was calling various numbers and asking about services when a café worker familiar with YouthCare approached him and told him about the Orion Center. Feeling a wave of relief, Eric set out for the large green building on Stewart Street and Denny Way.

When Eric entered the Orion Center’s double doors, Semone, YouthCare’s Outreach Manager, greeted him with a warm smile and food in hand. Eric was flooded with gratitude.

“Everyone was really cool. They made me feel like I was welcome, with no strings attached. They helped me get clear about what I needed to do next.”

The next morning, YouthCare staff sat down with Eric and helped him plan his next steps. He shared with them his background and his dreams. Within a week, he landed a job at a local restaurant, and the Orion team helped him prepare for the first day. Little by little, Eric started to piece together the mentorship and the community of support he had been looking for. He was hopeful.

Over the next few weeks, Eric became closer with staff at the Orion Center. They cracked jokes with him each time he visited, and he was grateful that they made him laugh and renewed his sense of optimism. With support from the team at Orion, Eric secured his own apartment. His case manager helped him put up photos of his girlfriend and siblings from back home.

Though he’s now living on his own, Eric still visits the Orion Center to check in with staff and share updates. He even tagged along for a group excursion to an opera show the other night—a first for Eric. In addition to working at the restaurant, Eric works part-time as a delivery driver. He’s focused on saving enough money to achieve his goal: launching a business career in tech and managing an online networking company.

Each young person who walks through YouthCare’s doors brings a unique story and set of circumstances, but all young people share one thing in common: the hope and potential to live out their dreams. They all deserve the right to move forward and thrive.