USC alumna Marcy Pullard is living her dream, by helping other people try to live theirs.
Pullard, who graduated in 1995, is the founder of Avenues of Independence, Inc., a transitional home for homeless youth located just more than two miles from USC.
Pullard had dreamt of opening a transitional home for many years, and it was this dream that brought her to the USC School of Social Work. After graduating, she worked several different jobs in the area around USC until, in May 2008, she finally secured enough money to open her non-profit transitional home.
“This is my passion. This is what I’ve always done,” she said. “It’s been in the making for about 10 years.”
Avenues of Independence gives homeless youth ages 18 to 25 a place to find shelter and support as they work to move on to the next step in their lives. The home provides weekly clinics to help ease the transition.
“For me, the bottom line is, at 18 most teenagers aren’t ready to go out on their own,” Pullard said.
Pullard helps clients with everything from obtaining a California ID to writing their resumé and finding jobs.
For Andrew, a client of Avenues of Independence who asked that his real name not be printed, the goal is to find a job.
“I have my resumé and everything, but the economy was down so jobs were few and far between,” he said.
After only three days at the center, the 22-year-old had already set up a job interview in Hollywood, but he still had one problem — finding shoes.
“I have dress pants, dress shirts, socks but no shoes,” Andrew said.
This is a problem Pullard sees often. Many of her clients lack the basic items or skills to obtain jobs. Her goal is to help them find these resources so they are able to build a stable foundation.
Andrew found the center after his family kicked him out and he needed a place to live. Though he’s been with Pullard for a short time, he has already found her program helpful.
“I like this more than being in a shelter with bunk beds,” he said. “I find it more productive for me. I wish there were more programs like this.”
The transitional home currently accommodates four clients at a time and each client typically stays one month. Pullard hopes to expand eventually, but she does not yet have the funds.
“Although I wrote the program to be long term, right now one of our major funding sources allowed us to do emergency shelter, which is a short-term thing,” Pullard explained. “We’re looking to find additional funding to do more long-term.”
As she gives back to the community around her, Pullard is also giving back to her alma mater. She uses the university’s resources to help her program grow, and works with the School of Social Work to place a first-year student as her intern.
Pullard also takes on students from other universities as interns, and last year she worked with Rory Manley, an undergraduate from California State University, Los Angeles.
Manley found the experience valuable in helping him better understand the field of social work and credits Pullard with giving him indispensable advice about applying to graduate programs.
“Having worked with Marcy has been a personal and academic blessing for me,” Manley said. “She’s always very hands on.”
Ultimately, Pullard hopes to see Avenues of Independence grow into a long-term, multi-bed facility, and she is currently raising money to buy a motel not far from her current facility. Until then, she will continue to take pride in her clients’ small achievements each day.
“For each step they accomplish, it’s good,” she said.