Youth Peer Support Housing Specialist 


Elizabeth was born and spent a majority of her early childhood in Hennepin County Minnesota, but mostly in Minneapolis. Both of her parents were teenagers when she was born, and due to lack of resources, support, and education, they struggled to parent Elizabeth and her siblings. A significant portion of her early childhood was spent moving from apartment to apartment and almost always lacking necessities. She moved so often that her lack of stability resulted in long-term academic challenges.

In addition to their lack of experience, her parents also struggled to overcome personal barriers which made parenting that much more challenging. Her dad dealt in the world of drugs from the age of fourteen. He was sexually promiscuous, which added responsibility as he fathered more children and he associated with gangs and other illegal activities to make money. Her mother struggled with undiagnosed mental illness caused by severe adolescent trauma from observing her mother's long-term physically abusive relationship.

Her mother separated from her father soon after her younger sister was born. Their separation coincided with her grandparents moving six hours away to Nebraska, resulting in her family losing the only natural supports they had. Their financial instability led to more frequent and unplanned moves and eventually led them to become homeless, prompting her mother to decide to move the family closer to Elizabeth's grandparents.

At first, moving to Nebraska was like a breath of fresh air for her family. The new environment prompted her mom to search for and eventually find work and housing. Elizabeth and her sister were given a new foundation to grow, and for awhile they both excelled both at home and in school. However, her mom's unaddressed mental illness and continued drug use caused her to struggle in her new environment. Her mother's inability to communicate her needs lead her down a path of dishonesty, manipulation, and illegal activity, which had an adverse impact on her children's experiences both at home and in school. Her parenting was erratic, physically and mentally abusive, and often manipulative. The once fresh and new environment quickly became dark and unstable.

Finally, when Elizabeth entered middle school, she made the decision to move in with her grandparents. She found love, stability, guidance, hope, laughter, and acceptance in her grandparents' home. Her grandparents are down to earth, caring and nurturing people who loved Elizabeth like a daughter. She struggled at first to adapt to the structure, discipline, love and guidance that her grandparents' home provided but was eventually able to accept their role in her life and form lasting relationships with both of them.

Choosing to move away from an unstable, destructive, and hopeless environment, and into a new hope-filled home gave Elizabeth the opportunity to identify her needs and strengths. At the time, she was dealing with mental heath barriers and an eating disorder that lasted into her adult years. She also struggled to maintain financial stability, due insufficient education, and poor financial decisions.

Elizabeth was forced to open her eyes to the lasting effects of trauma once she realized that the barriers from her childhood had persisted into her young adult life. After learning more about trauma and finally having the opportunity to focus on personal growth, Elizabeth found her passion for helping others facing similar traumas and situations. Elizabeth has spent a little more than five years dedicating her time to working with local non-profit organizations, and she hopes to continue with Youth ERA for many years to come.