John Drake is 21 and writes that he’s “sick of” seeing people die on the streets for lack of housing and services. He’s an affordable-housing advocate who has known homelessness and poverty, and helped a family member overcome addiction. He insists our legislators must do better.
I am the youngest Democrat in this race by a margin of more than a decade. That matters, especially since voters aged 18 to 34 make up 32% of the population and deserve representation.
I am young — 21 years old — but not inexperienced. To understand my campaign, you have to know my story. I’m an adopted, queer immigrant who has known homelessness and poverty and who has helped a family member overcome substance abuse.
I work three jobs, am a full-time college student at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, and am running a campaign to help those our system ignores or has left behind.
Why? Why would I do this to myself?
It’s because I’m sick of seeing people live and die on the streets. I’m furious at the inaction of our state government — a government more concerned about the “parliamentarian” aspect of government than actually solving issues.
I know what it is like to be alone and helpless.
I was born in Latvia, along the Baltic Sea. My father died when I was 3 months old and my mother abandoned me and my sister, Sofija, who is 1 year and 11 days older than I am. Sofija is the only blood relative I have left and is my rock and my strength — my connection to myself and my past.
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Sofija and I spent four years in and out of homes in Latvia before our American family adopted us, brought us to Ventura, California, and changed our lives forever. They are the people I am proud to still call my family.
Coming to America didn’t necessarily guarantee we would always live the best or most successful kinds of lives. In fact, living in America, especially California, has shown itself to be quite difficult.
In 2008, when the stock market crashed, my mother lost her job as a marketing manager at a local cable station and my dad’s chimney sweep business took a dive. Our lives changed, but my family did their best to maintain dignity and pride.
However, over the years, our problems became harder and harder to hide. As we slipped further and further below the poverty line, there were things we simply couldn’t do or pay for anymore. Things like medication, food and housing payments became things we had to choose among. That’s something no one should be forced to go through.
The American Dream died on us — just as it has on millions all across the country.
No family should have to face houslessness. That is why I am running for office. I don’t want anyone to have memories like mine.
I currently work as a housing policy director for Homeless-R-Us, an unhoused people’s nonprofit in Lancaster, where I am on the front lines fighting for affordable housing. I have chosen to dedicate my life to solving houselessness because of my personal experience and because it’s California’s most pressing issue.
I am also worried about the opioid crisis and drug addiction among youth and the marginalized. I experienced firsthand the drug addiction of a close family member and served as their guardian and confidant. They are doing well now, but watching them struggle has taught me empathy and the destructiveness of addiction.
My family’s battles with houselessness, combined with their struggles with substance abuse, taught me an important lesson: More programs exist for houselessness and treatment than programs to prevent houselessness and addiction.
I want to change that. That starts with funding.
Politicians in Sacramento have lost sight of people’s lives. They are caught up in greed and special and corporate interests and not the health and well-being of everyday people.
I am the only person in this race who hasn’t taken any corporate or special-interest money. That makes me proud, because win or lose, I’ve not only stayed true to myself, but I’ve stayed true to the people I’m fighting for.
My generation is growing up with the consequences of this legislature’s inaction. We’re experiencing higher costs of living, stagnant wages, and an ever-falling quality of life. We are on the precipice of a failing society. How can we reconcile that?
We have to decide whether or not we’re going to negotiate with corruption, or take a stand against it.
A vote for me is a vote for youth, for dynamism and for saying no to bureaucracy. Let’s tackle houselessness now, together. Let’s make sure no more families lose their dreams to the streets.
John Drake is a third-year Cal Poly student majoring in political science and public administration, and also serves on the Cal Poly College of Liberal Arts Student Advisory Council to the dean and the SC3 Council, which addresses concerns and resource distribution among the student body. He lived 16 years in Ventura, California, and in 2021, he moved to San Luis Obispo, where he plans to live for the rest of his life.
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