STOCKTON - After a life that included parental drug use, domestic violence, homelessness and even prostitution, speaking before a crowd of nearly 1,000 people was a breeze for Courtney Baldwin.
Baldwin, 20, was a featured speaker this week at the annual Women's Center Youth and Family Services luncheon where she told the story of living through and managing to escape those conditions.
Baldwin was born to drug addicts and moved to Stockton from the Bay Area when she was 4 years old to live with a foster family. She admits to being rebellious as a 15 year old and that began a series of poor decisions that eventually led her to stripping and prostitution in Stockton.
"This was to pay bills and get food. I would use men to have a place to sleep, or get food or something. Where else was I going to get it?" Baldwin said in an interview with News10.
Fortunately, Baldwin didn't stay in that life for long and sought help from a former high school counselor who advised her to seek help from the Women's Center in Stockton.
"They provided a bed, housing, food and clothes. Anything I needed they provided. All I had to do was use it," Baldwin said.
Now Baldwin works for another Stockton agency, Community Partnership for Families, helping other young people realize survival and recovery are possible.
"If more people tell their story, there will be more help, and people understand more. If I can be the first person to do it, I'll be it. I'll continue to do it," she said.