Eight months ago, Brianna Yandell was an isolated, homeless young mother with few opportunities and little support.

Yandell’s living situation was not always so desperate; she was adopted when she was 3 years old by an affluent family. They were good to her, she said, but she always felt a bit like an outsider.

“I was always the odd one out,” she said.

Yandell said that her adoptive parents are still supportive of her on their own terms, but don’t really understand her for who she is.

Yandell moved to Oregon from Delaware with her daughter and her child’s father, but soon found herself alone, living in a tent in the woods. She remained homeless for about two-and-half years.

That’s when Yandell, 24, decided to utilize the services at HomePlate youth drop-in services. HomePlate services is Washington County’s only drop-in center and outreach team designed to support and empower youth experiencing housing instability.

Yandell shared her story on Tuesday at the open house for the new Beaverton HomePlate office at 12520 S.W. Third Street, which opened about a month ago in Beaverton.

HomePlate raised approximately $67,000 during the fundraising campaign for youth services, exceeding their expectations.

She said the non-judgmental staff gave her the respite and moral support she needed to get her out of a circular path of destruction. She said she wants people to understand how it helps people who need to find their way back on to their feet. She said HomePlate is still really good for her, even now that her life is stable, because it gives her a feeling of family and she still appreciates that she has people she can talk to for moral support and help her move forward with her goals.

In 2015, HomePlate served 1,034 youth with the help of 996 volunteers, a staff of seven full-time employees and more than $370,000 of in-kind donations such as hygiene supplies, clothing, space, time and food.

According to Bridget Calfee, HomePlate director, HomePlate meets youth where they are by going to transit stations, skate parks and other areas where youth with housing instability can be found. There are also three drop-in centers so youth can take showers, have hot meals, get hygiene supplies, clothing, food to go, bus tickets, diapers, baby wipes, and resource and referral information. HomePlate serves people ages 12 to 24 years old with the goal of getting them back to a place of stability.

It’s a program that certainly worked for Yandell, an articulate young woman who finished high school when she was about four months pregnant. She says she is strong and determined. She aspires to work in the medical field, but for now, is grateful to have a job at McDonald’s and a home that she and her three children share with another woman and her children who were also previously homeless.

“Our living situation works out,” Yandell said. “Sometimes the house is a mess. Sometimes the kids are screaming (but) we watch each other’s kids and help each other through.”

Yandell said she is a realist, hoping to start her journey into the medical field by first training to be a certified nurse’s aide or medical assistant, and then going to college.

Her current goals, she said, seem like a dream compared to her past life when she begged for money on the streets.

“I mostly wanted to get enough money to feed my daughter and find a restaurant where we could sit down for about an hour. I didn’t eat the food. I gave it to my daughter. We just wanted to sit and stop moving for a little bit. That was what mattered,” she said.

Yandell also knows that her story can now help others facing similar struggles.

“Some people are embarrassed to talk about their experiences or to talk in front of other people,” Yandell said. “I don’t mind being their representative, because I have a level of comfort with speaking to people. I have had a lot of experiences in my short life.”

It’s been about eight months since she moved out of harm’s way and homelessness, when a typical day consisted of living in a tent and the weather was always an issue, especially when summer ended.

She wore the same clothes day-in and day-out. It was a time when she wished she was invisible, so no one would see her leaving the woods and force her to find another spot to pitch her tent. She lived in places where she worried for her child’s safety and worried about her few belongings being stolen. She said there were a lot of people living in homeless camps that she didn’t want to live around.

“Being homeless is like a crazy circle,” Yandell said. “You know what you want or need, but it always seems to be right outside that circle, just beyond your reach.”

Yandell now has a 5-year-old daughter, a 17-month-old son, and a 2-month-old daughter. When she gave birth to her last child, HomePlate outreach worker Amber Layton came to the hospital with another HomePlate employee bearing gifts, but the biggest gift to Yandell was their presence, the feeling that people cared and acknowledged her and her new daughter.

“Before I met Amber, I felt alone,” Yandell said. “She was someone I could call and vent to. She is the crux of my main support system. She is a caring voice, which is one of the biggest things I needed. All of the staff and volunteers are really caring.”

Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle was a featured speaker at the ribbon-cutting event. He was introduced by Beaverton City Councilor Lacey Beaty, who shared a personal experience during the event.

“I fell in love with the mission of HomePlate. My husband was homeless when he was in high school,” she said, telling about 200 attendees that she couldn’t imagine how much her husband could have benefited from a service like HomePlate as a teen and that she was grateful Beaverton has this service.

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