Growing up with his loving parents and large extended family in North Carolina, Ari never dreamed that at the tender age of 20, he would end up alone in a new city experiencing homelessness, but that’s exactly what happened nearly a year ago.
Before arriving in Miami, he had graduated from high school without much direction about what he wanted to accomplish in life aside from having a knack and interest in video production and film. Living at home he bounced from one odd job to another, without having the pressure of running a household. When his grandmother, the matriarch of his family fell ill, Ari became her caregiver while simultaneously working through familial issues including his transition as a transgender youth.
After his grandmother’s passing, Ari grieved in a way least expected – he left the safety net of his family and decided to venture to Miami, which resulted in him blowing through a small inheritance in just a few weeks. A trip meant for him to cope and rest while developing his creative pursuits quickly turned into a trip for survival with Ari squatting in the safest neighborhoods he could find that were close to Pridelines, an organization that provides assistance to LGBTQ youth where he was able to shower and eat while they helped connect him to agencies like Camillus House that could assist with longer-term housing.
Going back to North Carolina ashamed and empty-handed wasn’t a viable option, so after being referred and accepted, Ari came into the Camillus House Youth Initiative (CHYI), “completely out of my comfort zone, completely lost, confused, and hungry”. “I was lucky enough to be welcomed with very open arms and I felt much better immediately,” he said.
Since participating in the program and receiving support from case managers and taking advantage of the resources – especially catered for youth, Ari has “been able to not only learn the city of Miami but also just learn a lot of skills about myself. I’ve been able to learn how to save money. I’ve taken the [budgeting and financial literacy] classes and so I’ve learned how to search for homes and understand that you must keep track and things are expensive.”
In part, that is what Camillus House is all about: being hospitable to those who need it most and Ari is proof that those who struggle come in all shapes and forms proving that anyone, even with a steady upbringing can stumble and fall. Ari was a self-professed naïve and sheltered young person who wasn’t prepared for life. With the help of Camillus, Ari says, “genuinely, my life has taken a 180-degree shift from who I was when I entered and who I will be when I leave. I just really appreciate the fact that I’ve been able to be in a place that has provided me with all the assistance and tools that I need to adjust myself so that I’m ready to step out into the world as a mature, independent adult.”
After initially gaining experience working with the DDA yellow shirts, he accepted a position working at the airport and continues working on his passion projects. Ari even created a documentary about Vizcaya, which is viewable here. Because the CHYI supports youth through the age of 24, Ari has time to continue to bloom and not rush into the “real world” until he is fully equipped. We know he’ll continue to do great things!
Be a Part of Camillus' Story
Our work depends on caring friends – will you join us? Learn more about how you can get involved and support us.