Twin sisters Carolyn and Celeste Warren remember much of their childhood in homeless shelters.

“We went to a different shelter every week,” Celeste recalled. “Whole different place, whole different people. We went to the Mission, Hutton House, Haven of Peace in Stockton, Family Promise.”

Friends or extended family members would take them in briefly; sometimes on their own or with their mother. Their parents used drugs and alcohol and, at times, ended up in jail, leaving the girls to take care of themselves and other family members.

“We were still having to take care of the whole family,” Carolyn said. “You don’t want to see your mom sleeping outside. She was still in a shelter. Even when we were younger, we already had to grow up. Our sister would call us because our mom got arrested again. Or a doctor would call us because she was going suicidal.”

When Celeste was 18, her friend who lived at Pathways suggested she live there too. Pathways is Center for Human Services’ transitional living program in Modesto that provides apartments at no cost for homeless 18-24 year olds.

“When I first moved in, I was so grateful,” Celeste remembers. “I didn’t know that I could ever get a place on my own.”

At the time, Carolyn was living with a boyfriend, but joined Celeste at Pathways when she was 20.

Each Pathways resident is required to follow rules to stay there for up to 24 months, including chores, getting a job, and saving $3,000 for housing after they complete the Pathways program. The residents also work with Pathways mentors to establish goals to accomplish during their time there. The sisters’ goals included getting their driver licenses and cars and paying off credit card bills. Both completed their goals in just months.

“Pathways is a place where you literally grow and become independent,” Carolyn said. “It trained me to to think five steps ahead now, that there’s consequences to what I do.

From my car, to cleaning, to organization – we learned how to do it at Pathways and we wouldn’t have been able to survive otherwise.”

In addition to life skills, Carolyn and Celeste are grateful for the relationships they built with Pathways staff.

“They didn’t make us feel like it was just their job to have to take care of us or comfort us,” Carolyn said. “It felt more like family.”

“Both of these young women came to Pathways with an open heart to do some changing,” said Paula Harter, Pathways Program Manager. “They had some tough lessons to learn, but they learned. The best thing about both of them is their pure determination to be successful and to never give up. Although they have suffered greatly, they will never sound or act like a victim. They both have integrity and keep their word. I am so grateful to have met and loved them.”

Since graduating from Pathways, both Carolyn and Celeste live in apartments in Modesto, continue to work, and plan to finish their college education. Now at 24 years old, Celeste wants to become a police officer and Carolyn aspires to work at Pathways one day to serve as a guide and give hope to young adults who are like she once was.

“Just because your parents or your family was at a bad point doesn’t mean you can’t make it, doesn’t mean that you should subject yourself to drugs or gangs,” Carolyn said. “People blame their parents so often. We’re living proof that you don’t have to be like that.”

“Pathways is a start to a better life,” Celeste said. “Being here will make you learn things and appreciate things and realize there are so many resources out there for everybody – it doesn’t matter what you’re going through. It’s a start to make you feel like you’re your own person. I’ve never been so happy and stable in my life.”