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In A Place Called Home, award-winning child welfare advocate David Ambroz writes about growing up homeless in New York for eleven years and his subsequent years in foster care, offering a window into what so many kids living in poverty experience every day.
When David and his siblings should be in elementary school, they are instead walking the streets seeking shelter while their mother is battling mental illness. They rest in train stations, 24-hour diners– anywhere that’s warm and dry; they bathe in public restrooms and steal food to quell their hunger. When David is placed in foster care, at first it feels like salvation but soon proves to be just as unsafe. He’s moved from home to home, and, in all but one placement, he’s abused. His homosexuality makes him an easy target for others’ cruelty.
David finds hope and opportunities in libraries, schools, and the occasional kind-hearted adult; he harnesses an inner grit to escape the all-too-familiar outcome for a kid like him. Through hard work and unwavering resolve, he is able to get a scholarship to Vassar College, his first significant step out of poverty. He later graduates from UCLA Law with a vision of using his degree to change the laws that affect children in poverty.
Told with lyricism and sparkling with warmth, A Place Called Home depicts childhood poverty and homelessness as it is experienced by so many young people who have been systematically overlooked and unprotected. It’s at once a gripping personal account of deprivation—how one boy survived it and ultimately thrived—and a resounding call for readers to move from empathy to action.
David Ambroz is a national poverty and child welfare expert and advocate. He was recognized by President Obama as an American Champion of Change. He currently serves as the Head of Community Engagement (West) for Amazon. Previously he led Corporate Social Responsibility for Walt Disney Television and served as the President of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, and as a California Child Welfare Councilmember. After growing up homeless and then in foster care, he graduated from Vassar and later from UCLA School of Law (J.D.). He is a foster dad and lives in Los Angeles, CA.
Photo: (c) Austin Hargrave