30th Anniversary Gala Snapshot - Shahida Parker Johnson
Below are remarks from Shahida Parker Johnson, a young adult resident at our Ruth Williams House at the Gene & Marlene Epstein Building, made at our 30th Anniversary Gala.
Good evening. My name is Shahida Parker Johnson and, like so many young people in Philly, I grew up in the foster care system and aged out, becoming homeless at the age of 19. Thanks to a friend, I learned about Covenant House, a shelter for homeless youth.
I’m thankful that I didn’t end up on the streets, but the three and a half months that I spent in the shelter were not easy. I felt very alone. I had to work hard to keep my grades up and keep my scholarship at LaSalle University while working a part-time job. My case manager at Covenant House helped me look for housing. I got a call for an interview with Project HOME. I remember the interview like it was yesterday. I was nervous! I didn’t want to move into a new place without support. But the young adult staff at Project HOME reassured me. This would be my permanent home, and there would be a lot of support for me there.
I was accepted, and I have been a proud resident Project HOME’s Ruth Williams House at the Gene & Marlene Epstein Building since I moved in in December 2017. The staff was true to their promise.
They had my back. I have had both emotional support and help with my school and career goals. Although I am a very determined and self-motivated person, at times I didn’t know if I would make it. The staff listened to me and encouraged me that I’ve got this! And they’re right—I have maintained good grades, and I’m set to graduate next year with my degree in Public Health from LaSalle.
Because my housing is stable and I have people in my corner, I can think about my future. Before I was so worried about where I would sleep that I did not have space to dream. Now I can focus on graduating and starting a career in my field. I hope to one day open a shelter for homeless youth, a space where they can feel safe and supported to achieve their goals. There were many times in my journey that I needed people to remind me that it was not the end—that I had to keep the faith.
I want to be that voice for other young people who are struggling. I want to encourage them to believe in themselves and not give up.
But the path to my future was luckily paved by the Project HOME Young Adult Program. This program started with a vision and a pilot program with Jon Bon Jovi opening eight Young Adults units at JBJ Soul Homes in 2014.
It has since grown to 70 units of affordable housing available to others like myself. I now have hope, community and a home because of his vision and generosity. Not only did he see the need for safe and affordable housing, but he and many others of you in this room joined together and took action to make it happen! As he does with all he touches, Jon Bon Jovi became passionate about the issue of homelessness and for that we are eternally grateful. So, now I’d like to introduce someone who has given so much support and encouragement to many like me; the one, the only – Jon Bon Jovi!