November 20, 2015 by poverty2professional
In the United States, November is marked by national holiday that celebrates what we have; traditionally, this includes good food, family and friends to share it with, and a home to enjoy it all within.
It’s about this time, in November 2007 and not too far off from Thanksgiving, that my father and I were evicted from our home. My father had lived there for twenty-five years and, at sixteen, I had lived there my whole life. We had nowhere else to go and no family to take us in.
We were homeless.
In the U.S., approximately 3.5 million people suffer from homelessness. We’re the other one percent. Of those identified as homeless, 35% are families with children and 23% are veterans (National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness). Another two-thirds struggle with mental illness. And generally, people are homeless for multiple reasons, or tri-morbidity, that coincide into one perfect storm. The homeless community is comprised of society’s most vulnerable populations.
Yet, when most people see a homeless person on the street the sight is accepted as a part of our society. Passers-by shirk away, redirecting their attention, and requests for food or spare change fall on deaf ears.
Among these cries for help, who else goes unheard and remains invisible? Homeless youth.
The average age of a child experiencing homelessness is eight years old. Of the 2.5 million children who have been homelessness in the U.S., California alone holds a disproportionate 527,000 with nearly 14,000 in Los Angeles Unified School District (National Center on Family Homelessness). Despite these staggering numbers, despite that one in four homeless individuals is a child under 18, when people think of homelessness they rarely think of children. I know that first-hand.
It’s been eight years since my family was evicted from our home. And a little over six since we secured housing. I feel that enough time has passed for me to write more clearly about some of the events that were so formative to the outlook I now hold. In the wake of Los Angeles’ mayor declaring a “state of emergency” for homelessness and dedicating $100 million for its resolution, this is an issue that requires more visibility and increased understanding.
The trajectory of this blog is to map my journey from a level of extreme poverty into college admission, reflecting on both my obstacles and privileges. The entries are both contemporary reflections and excerpts from the occasional journal entries I wrote. For the past year, I’ve been asking myself why I would like to write about this. While my story has been shared before, the extent of detail to be offered here is not something I have previously made public. Then I thought about how many students – high schoolers and young people in college or even just thinking about college – who are going through the same thing or similar. How many need something relatable? Maybe even some readers might be college counselors, advisers, and educators who work with or advocate for homeless and low-income youth. I know that nothing will be gained if I keep silent.
Finally, these experiences are completely my own. While I cannot speak for the unique circumstances of each individual within the homeless community, it is my hopes that these entries will help humanize the homeless experience. I hope that this space sheds light on the difficulties youth struggling with homelessness surmount every day just to get an education. And I really, really hope that this blog generates not just conversation but action for greater compassion and empathy around homelessness and poverty.
I’ll see everyone Monday, November 23rd.
Please note: This blog will update every two weeks, scheduled for Mondays. Additionally, for privacy of individuals, names and locations have either been removed or left intentionally vague.