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SustainABLE Start NY Empowers, Protects New Yorkers Experiencing Homelessness

By Ana Sofia Harrison

New York City, New York

SustainABLE Start is a youth-lead non-profit focused on helping homeless people while helping the environment (Photo Credit: SustainABLE Start)

In March 2020, Chloe Trujillo, a senior at the Dwight School in New York City, launched a sustainable non-profit organization that focuses on providing for homeless people. “As a young person my environmental impact is something I’m always hyper-aware of since I’ll be living on the earth a lot longer than others, also I don’t believe that helping people and helping the environment have to be mutually exclusive,” Trujillo said. SustainABLE Start is entirely student-run.

Other Dwight students, Victoria Buendia-Serrano, Olivia Wang and Phillip Furhman, helped build SustainABLE Start NY into an established organization.

When COVID-19 struck, Trujillo and the rest of her team saw the pandemic as a sign that their work was needed more than ever. There was an abundance of support during this time because others who had heard about the organization felt a similar way.

As entrepreneurs, Trujillo and her team are familiar with having to adjust to unfortunate and unexpected circumstances, so they were able to run their organization during the pandemic.

Trujillo puts emphasis on the fact that it wasn’t her idea to have high schoolers help as much as it was theirs: “As soon as I told my friends what I was doing, everyone wanted to help! This also made me realize that youth taking charge in their community is a really empowering experience, and our entire mission as an organization is to empower others. The teenagers I work with are among the most inspirational people I’ve ever met. Seeing their compassion and effort constantly reminds me that everyone has it in them to be a great person.”

The biggest obstacle for Trujillo to overcome was learning how to efficiently manage such a big team. “A lot of people say they want to help, but sometimes I struggle to communicate with them what to do, so I’ve been working to establish a more effective system so that people can easily help at any level of commitment they’re able to offer,” Trujillo said. The team now works with the app Trello to more efficiently plan out and complete tasks.

Trujillo said she sees SustainABLE Start as a long-term project: “Within the next year or two I hope to establish partnerships with suppliers to cover all our needs, and hopefully make 10,000+ kits in the next year. Since most of the leadership team is going to college next year, we’ve already begun setting up chapters in Philly and wherever else we end up going. And of course, the NYC chapter will continue to grow under new leadership.”

For the founding story please go to the following links:


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