SEATTLE — David Ambroz' memoir, "A Place Called Home," tells the story of how he grew up in child poverty in New York City.
He joined New Day NW to share how this experience shaped his new book.
"My family grew up homeless," Ambroz shared. "I was born into the streets of Manhattan, and for 12 years we wandered- my brother, sister, and my mentally ill mom."
"People walked past us, ignored us, we starved, we bathed in public restrooms and I thought what I was looking for was a building with four walls and a roof," he said. "Ultimately what I realized was the place called home was the mission I have to lift up kids like me out of poverty, however it's manifesting, and that's the home that I call today."
Ambroz also discusses his early life and his relationship with his mom in the memoir.
"So, New York City in the 80s, as some might remember, was not exactly a destination folks went to," he explained. "It was violent and miserable and we just kept moving from Grand Central to the Port Authority to the parks to the nooks and crannies of public libraries and endlessly moving, endlessly hungry."
As a child, Ambroz saw firsthand people struggling with mental health issues, drug addiction, and caught in a cycle of violence. "There was a crack epidemic and there was men all over the place that were suffering from a pandemic we didn't understand yet."
At 12 years old, Ambroz entered the foster care system, along with his 13-year-old brother and his 14-year-old sister.
"I had a harsh lesson. I learned very quickly that hell had a basement and I was going into it," he said. "Whatever my mom's violence, which was often, she loved us and the reason the three of us have graduate degrees and healthy thriving families is her imperfect love."
"But foster care, except for one foster family, was a brutal education for me," he said. "They went through efforts to make me not gay, went through juvenile delinquency for no reason, and moved around entirely too much."
The state of child poverty and the unhoused today is something Ambroz thinks about often, and works to actively fight against.
"I could not be more bullish on the progress we've made," he said. "I think if we can constantly yell fire, the public is not going to run into the building. We have to pay people to do that."
"We have to realize how much progress we've made. In my lifetime, we've more than halved the number of kids living in poverty," he said. "We denigrate the government, but we are the government."
Entering this conversation back into the political conversations of lawmakers is very important, according to Ambroz.
"First and foremost we need to reignite the belief that we can do something," Ambroz said. "Ask a question, show up at a meeting, educate yourself about what's going on in your community."
Millions of kids, Ambroz said, need us to talk about them. "Not since 1999 have we talked about child poverty in a presidential debate."
He said he's sharing his story because there is still so much work left to be done.
"We're doing the work. We need to work harder. We need to work faster," He explained.