The receptionist had gone on vacation.
So Corae Young was assigned to LifeStyles of Maryland as a temp tasked with filling the void for one week. On the Friday that was to be Young’s last day, Executive Director Sandy Washington approached her and asked if she’d consider staying with the organization.
That was June 2005.
“And I never left,” Young said.
Since her first week as a temp, Young’s role within the organization evolved from managing the front desk to playing vital roles in case management, transportation, shelter, administrative support and, well, pretty much everything else.
In 2007, Young ascended to the position of Assistant Director and her partnership with Washington has helped LifeStyles grow its services, expand its reach and serve more individuals and families in need than ever before.
“When you run an organization like LifeStyles, you need a right-hand person willing to go the extra mile,” Washington said. “Corae is that person and more. She has spearheaded making our visions a reality.”
Washington and Young have formed an especially effective partnership because they each bring unique characteristics to the table.
“She always likes to bring positivity to everything. She brings optimism, she brings a wealth of experience, the motivation,” Young said of Washington. “I’m very good at being detail-oriented and taking her passion and motivation and helping provide that road map.”
Young brings plenty of passion, too, along with her organization and focus. It’s why, in addition to her role at LifeStyles, she is now serving as the Chair of the Southern Maryland Local Homelessness Coalition, which leads the regional response to homelessness and works to help develop policy, implement initiatives, increase access to housing and services in the community, and coordinate services.
She is also the Vice-Chair of the newly established Balance of State, which serves as the Continuum of Care for seven counties, including all of Southern Maryland.
As it is with LifeStyles, the mission is to prevent homelessness as much as possible, transition individuals and families out of homelessness and into permanent housing as quickly as possible, and help to provide community support to limit a return to homelessness.
Young knows the mission is one that can be achieved. She’s seen the success stories time and time again.
One of her most memorable experiences at LifeStyles centers around a client who was particularly challenging. Chronically homeless, she lived on the street and often slept on the doorstep at LifeStyles. Mental health issues kept her from being placed into shelters.
Not only was LifeStyles there to support her, but a full range of local organizations, including the Department of Social Services, the Department of Health and the Charles County Sheriff’s Office.
Eventually, the client got the mental health care she needed and made it into her own apartment.
“Seeing the joy that she had, knowing she’d been on the street for so long, was one of the best memories I’ve had,” Young said. “She’s maintained it for two or three years now. It’s rewarding to know that as agencies and partners in the community, we can work together.”
Not every story ends in such a success. But the opportunity and the possibility is always there. That’s what keeps Young going every day.
“People ask me all the time how I balance it, especially during the pandemic,” she said. “This is not a 9-to-5 job. … But at LifeStyles, I can see the change unfold as we provide services. I can see the impact it makes on people’s lives.”