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Jacky Law: Finding Belonging and Safety in Shelter Housing

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Facing hardship and feeling shame can keep you from owning your story. But Jacky Law found that sharing your story can be the antidote to shame.

As the son of immigrants from China, I grew up in a shelter as my parents worked to build a stable life for my sister and me.

When most people think about shelters, it sounds scary and cold. For kids, coming in for the first time, it is always a shock. I’ve seen them come in with their heads hung low, wanting to be invisible. Because I have been in shelters for most of my childhood, I know that feeling of shame and isolation all too well. This is why I have made it a point to reach out. It just takes one person to smile and start talking to help create a sense of belonging.

When I was in middle school, whenever kids talked about home, I would freeze and stay silent. During that time, no one really knew me because there was so much I was not sharing about myself. I wouldn’t. I couldn’t bear the idea of anyone thinking poorly of my sick father or my mother who was working multiple jobs.


Eventually, a mentor helped me own my experience and give it power. As soon as I started taking pride in my life story, I found those who would value me for my authentic self. Now, kids from the shelter are some of my closest friends, and together, we have been working to uplift our community. Today, I draw upon my childhood in my community work at a nonprofit, helping other low-income kids feel seen and find pride in their experience.

A couple of years ago, my family moved out of the shelter. Though my time had its share of challenges, I would not trade it for anything because it made me resilient, proud and gave me an unbreakable circle of genuine friends.

With a Perspective, I’m Jacky Law.

Jacky Law is a Junior in high school in the heart of the real San Francisco where you can hear multiple languages being spoken, old people are collecting cans, and kids get around the neighborhood via the alleyways that have been used for over 150 years. He sees himself as a son of Chinatown and knows that while he may be the first one in his family to leave it, he will always return to uplift the community that has raised him.

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