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Tucson-based group empowers homeless, foster youth

Posted at 4:51 AM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 09:05:48-04

TUCSON, AZ — A past filled with poor decision-making did not stop Desiree Cook from pursuing her purpose. The cosmetologist based in Tucson decided to use her experiences to help others.

She launched "I Am You 360," a non-profit organization aimed at helping empower homeless and foster youth in Arizona.

"We all have a story, and a lot of us think that our stories are isolated cases, or ashamed and embarrassed to share their story. Where on a worldwide level, many of us have similar stories, so why not encourage each other and speak life to each other and let each other know, 'hey, I am you?'" Cook said.

Cook's program focuses on the whole person by doing the inner and outer work. Now seven years later, "I Am You 360" serves roughly 3,000 youth and families in Pima County. Services include free hygiene bags with customized skincare and haircare kits based upon age, gender, and race.

"I decided to really pour into hygiene. I started seeing children in our community that were looking like their circumstance, and I felt that they should look dignified... as well as feel dignified and remove that bar or stigma of the appearance of children in foster care," said Cook.

The organization is now working on developing a tiny home community, which will provide a safe place to live for homeless youth and foster care youth who've aged out of the system. The homes are specifically for those ages 18 to 22, and anyone desiring to live in the community must complete a 42-week life skills course.