Seraphina Pinsky, 18, is a former homeless teen helping other teens thanks to the Community Works Transitional Living Program. Bob Pennell / Mail Tribune photo - Bob Pennell

Seraphina: Climbing back from a series of poor choices

Seraphina Pinsky remembers the day she stood shivering and alone in the rain, wondering where she'd lost herself. It was the day the homeless Medford teen began turning her life around, the day she began to turn pain into positive action.

"One day I kind of woke up," said Pinsky.

Pinsky's life had been doing a slow unravel long before that fateful day. The youngest of three siblings, Pinsky, 18, says she was once very close to her parents. But she was also often in trouble.

Pinsky was kicked out of middle school, left high school at age 15 and began a relationship with an older boy. As things continued to spiral downward, Pinsky had a falling out with her parents that ultimately led her to life on the streets — life that included abuse from her boyfriend, drugs and living in cars, she said.

"I've been in dangerous situations," Pinsky said. "I didn't know what I was getting into."

She found the courage to leave her abusive boyfriend. Later she was standing in the rain, calling her parents, reaching out for help.

"I tried to rebuild the relationship that had been lost, and find out where I'd lost myself," Pinsky said. "My parents are really supportive and happy I'm doing well. But they had their own struggles, and I didn't want to add to that."

Pinsky reached out to the Maslow Project, a nonprofit organization that provides help to homeless youth. They connected her with the Community Works Transitional Living Program. TLP provides housing for homeless youth ages 16 to 21 years. But TLP is more than a subsidized housing program. Clients must implement a service plan, set and achieve goals, save money, learn life skills and finish their high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, said Andrea Burcham, TLP case manager.

"Seraphina made choices that moved her away from her family," said Burcham. "But she has been very self-accountable about those choices. Now she's making different choices."

Through counseling, Pinsky began to rebuild her shattered self-esteem.

"TLP helped me understand I can make a change," Pinsky said. "I am capable. I am good enough."

The program also helped Pinsky with housing and creating a plan for her life. She has completed high school and is on a career path to become a social worker, she said.

"I've always wanted to help others," Pinsky said. "Looking back, I think (I might have made different choices) if someone had really been there for me — helping me see there is a better way of life and that I wasn't alone."

Today Pinsky is helping other teens by creating criteria for daily life skills classes taught at TLP. Things as simple as how to ride on a bus and how to make a nutritious meal. Things as complicated as how to find a job, balance a budget and build a healthy relationship, said Burcham.

There are currently 16 youths enrolled in the TLP program. Five more openings will be available in October, said Burcham. For more information, call 541-779-2393 ext. 223.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

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