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My Mission Year service site is the Star of Hope Mission. It’s a nonprofit organization that has been providing Christ-centered services to the homeless population of Houston, TX since 1907 (that’s 110 years!). I was assigned to the new Cornerstone Community location that houses women and families. At Star of Hope there is an emergency shelter for all residents that is available to them for up to 30 days. Residents can then choose a program for up to 18 months in which they take classes and move toward independence. My time is split between the TAYF program for young adults ages 18-24 and the New Hope program for recovering addicts.

I have been teaching residents in the TAYF program life skills from the Phillip Roy online school curriculum. Later, TAYF participants will learn about nutrition and wellness based on a curriculum that I created myself. I enjoy the TAYF program because I find that the classes are relaxed and the participants are able to share openly about their experiences . They often provide feedback that they feel supported and learn helpful information that they weren’t exposed to in the past. I’m often impressed by their vulnerability and also by the way that they lift each other up.

I must admit though that I was afraid to teach New Hope participants because I don’t feel qualified to do so. However, the program staff believed in me and gave me the freedom to create my own curriculum. The result is that the participants learn from me and I learn from them.

Working at Star of Hope has been such a blessing. I love being in a work setting where my faith and passion come together. I also love that Star of Hope isn’t about a quick fix to homelessness but provides the long-term support needed to end homelessness permanently. I came to realize that I do have a heart for the homeless population and to see the injustice surrounding the issue.



Jelenny Martinez is a current Mission Year Houston team member. Originally from Brentwood, NY, she attended the University of South Florida. Learn more or support her by visiting her donation page or blog.