SAN ANTONIO – For about 40 years, Roy Maas Youth Alternatives has been helping children in crisis.
The non-profit has helped thousands, and while their doors are always open, it’s not often we get to hear from the children living inside.
We introduce you to young women who tell us their stories of survival.
“It wasn’t easy growing up with a mother who was a drug dealer and a father who was an in and out alcoholic,” said former foster child Rubi Martinez.
Martinez, 23, never had the chance to have a normal childhood. She had to take care of her younger siblings, until the state put her in a foster home.
“To me it was a blessing being taken away from my mother and never going back with her,” she said.
Just like Rubi, this teenager, who didn’t want to show her face or give her name, was taken away from her sister’s custody after her sister was arrested.
“I went to Macy’s and she got caught stealing,” she said. “I was with her so they took me to juvenile.”
She spent a few days in the juvenile detention center waiting to find out where she would go.
“I just couldn’t go back there,” she said. “The people you hang around have the most effect on you, so if you know that someone’s not good for you, remove yourself from there and that environment.”
Both girls have experienced what most people never have to, and both have found help at Roy Maas Youth Alternatives.
“Bexar County does have a fairly high rate of kids who do come into care and are removed from their homes,” said RMYA executive director Bill Wilkinson.
Wilkinson said some of those children will come to live at the Emergency Bridge Shelter.
“Roy Maas, the originator of the organization, used to say there were three things that were important for people to have: someone to love, something constructive to do with their time, and something to look forward to,” he said. “And so when we work with our children, those are the things we are trying to provide for them.”
Right now, there are 17 kids and teens at The Bridge, but there can be as many as 24. It’s a constant stream of displaced, abused or neglected youth who need stability.
“What we hope to do is to instill a certain amount of resilience in these kids and help them understand that their past is not necessarily a predictor of their future,” Wilkinson said.
Rubi is creating her own path, as she entered into a RMYA program, and while working in the Roy Maas Thrift Store, learned valuable life skills.
“They’ve always told me don’t give up, push yourself to your limits,” she said. “Don’t lose your focus. Keep your faith.”
Keeping the faith – that surviving can turn into thriving.
“All of those things contribute to someone like Rubi, who now sees her experience in the system as a blessing,” Wilkinson said. “She sees it as part of her path.
“I count my blessings not my problems,” she said. “Fight for what you want because nothing is given to you for free.”
Roy Maas Youth Alternative gets about 70 percent of its funding through the state, but still relies on donations and volunteers.