My name is Jaden and I’m 14 years old.
I’m passionate about social justice philanthropy and community service — and I’ve been working to make a difference in the communities I’ve lived since I was 8 years old. You can read more about my story here.
What I’ve been up to lately is learning about the homelessness crisis in Portland, Oregon, the city I’m proud to call home.
I’m also exploring how to build an alliance of youth differencemakers who care about changing the lives of the homeless in our city. I want to collaborate with other young people to help the people in my city, who don’t have safe place to live, enough food to eat or the medical attention they need.
Last year, through a school project I learned about what lobbying is and how it can be used to create positive change. My school group had to pick a current topic to lobby for and we chose the complex issue of increasing the minimum wage in Portland, Oregon.
What surprised me in learning about the minimum wage issue is the severe and chronic problem of homelessness in Portland — and how our current minimum wage can slow down the process for a person or family who wants to change their circumstances and climb out of the cycle of being homeless.
Through my previous philanthropy and community service work, I’d had an opportunity to meet and talk with people who live on the streets in the cities of our country. I’ve learned about how people can end up homeless and how hard it is to change those circumstances, once you’ve landed on the streets or in a shelter.
My personal experiences with people who are homeless, along with what I learned during my school project inspired me to research and learn more specifically about the homelessness crisis in my city.
When I realized that there were not just close to 4,000 people living on the streets and in shelters in Portland, but that there were an additional 12,000+ people that are “doubled up” and without stability in their lives and a place to call home — I knew that I wanted to find a way to make positive difference.
I started by researching the community leaders and organizations which are working to solve this complex problem in Portland. That led me to attending an event called, Oregon Live’s Big Idea, where I put more of the pieces together and met some of the people working on this issue, to help and end homelessness in our city.
Through my research, I started to understand that if I was going to have a positive impact on this problem in my city, I needed to find unique ways to create awareness, build community support and find my tribe of other youth changemakers, who are also passionate about this issue.
I’ve had a successful first project, where I celebrated my 14th birthday by creating a fundraising campaign and an items contribution drive, to collect #100KeepWarmItemsIn100Hours to deliver to Portland’s homeless, who were significantly impacted by severe winter storms and record-breaking sub-zero temperatures.
The success and support of that project motivated me to take the next step — connecting with other youth leaders in my community, so that together we can offer hope and provide the kinds of opportunities that happen, when people come together to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
Are you a youth changemaker? Do you live in Portland, Oregon? Would you like to join with other difference-makers as part of an alliance and a #ForceForGood?
If so, reach out here and tell us a little about yourself and how you already are or imagining you will contribute your time, talent and ideas.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Jaden and his mother, Amanda, contacted Advocacy5 about their '100 Keep Warm Items in 100 Hours' supply drive for the houseless, wondering where these supplies would best serve our homeless population. I sent them to Clackamas Service Center in SE Portland where they distributed their care packages and spent time talking with the homeless community that the center serves on a daily basis. This spontaneous and amazing community outreach project started out as a birthday wish Jaden expressed and became a reality through his caring determination and organization. Imagine what we could all do for our community if we put our minds to it.