To Be Young And Without A Home...

So the issue of homelessness is not something I have always given the most thought to... honestly.  I have lived in LA and I now live San Francisco.

I live in a part of town that has a lot of services, free clinics, halfway houses and so forth.  I am very much used to homeless as part of my day to day.  The "picture" painted from this experience is one of middle-aged to older men and woman, many of which appear to have mental issues and / or drug related issues.  You see this scene enough and it just becomes your "stereotype" of what it means to be homeless.

OK.  So that sets the stage for where I jump to next.  My brother came up for Thanksgiving and his birthday.  We had a falling out some years back, so there was a solid time that we weren't close.  I know during this time he went through a lot of stuff.  Big and small.  Serious and not.  We were talking at Thanksgiving and went around the block and dropped off some homemade sandwiches to homeless in the neighborhood.  We got to talking and he shared with me that he was homeless for a time.  He talked at length about the psychological impact of literally being homeless.  You can candy coat it and say you are in between homes... but hearing his stories of moving from place to place, night after night.  Of trying to hide his situation from others by saying "Hey, you can just drop me off at the corner, I could use the walk..." just so that they wouldn't see him dive into the park to find the best secluded spot to try stay warm for that night.

And it was with this story that it reminded me of some very important facts I had happened upon almost a year prior.... numbers and stories and pictures that point to just how many youth / teens are homeless.  This stands in stark contrast to my "stereotype" that I started this little share with...

I looked up the numbers again... and right now, there are over two million young people who face bouts of homelessness each year in the U.S. Most have been forced from their homes because of circumstances beyond their control -- my brother wasn't a teenager, but I think this applies in some ways to him as well.  Some manage to make it through school but others are less fortunate, resorting to begging or prostitution just to survive. I am not trying to make this like an episode of Law & Order SVU, but this stuff really does happen.  It is not just fiction.  And homeless kids have different needs than homeless adults - they haven't even had a chance to live their lives yet.  That's I think what is most interesting... so often we make stupid decisions when we are young.  Think about those stupid decisions that you made.  Think about the people and places you had around you to help you through those stupid decisions... NOW TAKE THAT ALL AWAY.  Where does that leave you?  What are you feeling and thinking right now?

That brings me to Covenant House.  I have done some deeper reading and I have to say that I am impressed with their efforts.  They are focused in the most urban environments -- where things are probably at their worst and the most people can benefit -- but they are growing with the support of friends and as they grow this issue shrinks disproportionately.

I support Covenant House.  I support it in the name of people just like my brother.  To give them a second chance.  Because more often than not, when you do, they really do surprise you.

EPjake EPjake
26-30, M
4 Responses Mar 19, 2010

Living in Portland there were a lot of youth on the streets, many that I knew were kicked out of their homes just because family discovered they were gay. I know this is far from being just a gay issue, but those are the majority of the youth homeless I knew. These were intelligent, well mannered and great kids that were literally begging for change and food on the streets and would sleep with someone for a place to shower and crash for the night. It hurt me so much to see some of these kids homeless. (some of them were even around 14 years old) I've seen some of them lately online and it's so nice to see those that made it. some of them didn't fare so well though... Luckily there are more places like Covenant house that are helping give them a hand.

Life is not always what makes it to American's Funniest Home Videos... nor does it mean that it is all darkness, gloom and doom.<br />
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If anything... I guess it is always important to remember that things hit closer to home than we realize sometimes... and that we all can do just a little bit to make a difference.

I have persons in my life that have become homeless. I have allowed some of them to stay in my home even because they had no where else to go. It is not about job status either because professionals are laid off every day and the average American is only two missed paychecks away from being homeless. It is a sad time. Thanks for the story Jake.

My brother is doing great! I think it is just an example that people can emerge from dark places... but often times they need and deserve a little support from "friends." And when I say "friends," I mean people with sympathetic hearts with the desire to make a difference... sans judgment.<br />
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Thanks for reading. JW