Natalie Garcia

Research Coordinator, Youth Action Hub


What is your greatest joy or what are you most proud of in your work?

I love working together with my colleagues at the Youth Action Hub and my greatest joy is watching all of us grow together as professionals. We’ve all had difficulty getting to where we are, and having opportunities through our work to make a change and grow as professionals is something that’s so important. We all push each other to try new challenges and find where our passion is. Seeing others on my team actualize the potential that they had all along is one of my favorite parts of working at Youth Action Hub.

Who or what inspires you to do your work?

My biggest inspiration comes from people that I work with that are passionate, caring, and dedicated to overcome all of the barriers we encounter in work and in our lives. If we’re to succeed in ending youth homelessness, we need to take risks and try new ideas while also having compassion and centering our work on understanding of what it means to partner and collaborate with young people. There’s been several people that I’ve been blown away by because of their passion and their efforts to think critically and challenge ideas that have become the norm. These are people that prevent us from becoming stagnant, and I hope to become more like them as I grow as a person.

If we are successful, paint a picture of what America will look like five years from now.

Successfully ending youth homelessness goes beyond making sure that people are housed quickly and remain housed. To be successful we have to help people in all aspects of their lives, because youth homelessness is tied to a huge amount of factors. Physical and mental health, substance use, discrimination, inequality, families, schools, laws around minors, and the justice system are just a few factors that are integral to understanding and ending homelessness. If we are to do this, we need strong collaboration and data sharing between all of our partners. After all, this was one of the key factors that led to Connecticut ending chronic homelessness. Ending youth homelessness means improving a variety of services and institutions through collaborative work, and when we succeed we will decrease risk and trauma and improve people’s lives, while also cutting down on costs that occur due to inefficiencies and gaps in our systems.

What’s the biggest challenge in your work today?

Me and my team have a lot to do in a short amount of time! I’m very happy that people see the value of our work and of our success, and offer opportunities to partner with us. One of our goals at YAH is to work with organizations to create meaningful and valuable opportunities for other young people to become partners in our efforts towards ending homelessness.

What do you wish everyone knew about homelessness?

From “More Than Homeless,” a PhotoVoice project by The Youth Action Hub

One of the findings from our research that has been consistent and integral to people’s experiences with homelessness is the importance of support in their lives. For many people it’s not about what type of services you provide to them, but rather the relationships and interactions that they have with their providers. When young people were asked what would be the most important thing they would need to succeed, a large majority said all they needed was one consistent supportive person in their life. One that would push them and make sure that they were on the right path, and someone that they can ask questions to or get assistance from. The center of our approach should be around helping people holistically and basing our approach on the growth of individuals. Even when a person has all the resources and help in the world, the majority of the change in their life needs to come from within. If our services are not working, and people are disengaging from our system, we need to make sure that our services are centered around the individual, rather than as primarily being functions of a system.