It is easy to view homeless individuals through stereotypical lenses that they are homeless through bad choices or criminal actions but the truth is, most of the youth are there as a result of situations they cannot control. In a national survey, almost 80% of homeless youth reported leaving home because of abusive relationships and 63% of homeless youth reported childhood trauma and abuse. This account, from one of our youth employees, tells her story of how she ended up on the streets.
"I ended up on the streets as a result of family issues that started before I was even born.
When my mother was seven months pregnant with me, my father was sentenced to sixteen years in prison. Although my father kept in constant contact with my mom, brother and I throughout the years and even sent us money from jail for various needs, I was raised primarily by my mom.
However, my mom struggled to raise two kids alone and our home became abusive at different points. When I was thirteen years old, a particularly violent incident eventually led me to be taken out of my home for good. I was sent to live briefly with my grandmother and then put into foster care where I stayed between the ages of 14-18.
Despite the obstacles in my path, I was always eager to improve my life and make the best of myself so I pushed myself to attend college when I was 18. Although this proves to be a bright new start for most young adults, for me, this marked the start of a particularly challenging period in my life.
Just months into my post-secondary education, I experienced a negative mental episode and was sent to the hospital where I was forced to stay until I was deemed stable enough to be discharged. Although I needed the help that I received at the hospital, the financial institution did not display the same empathy and withdrew my college funding. With nowhere to go, I turned to the local youth shelter.
I made an effort to move back out on my own but it took time. I tried to live with my father but it was a destructive environment. I tried again to live with my mother (as a more mature young adult) and even made plans to started attending college but my funding was once again revoked through a program technicality and a disagreement with my mother forced me back onto the streets.
I stayed in various youth shelters but the truth was, I still had mental health issues that had not yet been addressed. I was facing challenges that I did not know how to cope with and understand but they were hidden behind the fact that I was homeless. To staff, I was just one more youth needing to be fed and housed and those were their primary concerns.
As a result, I acted out in various ways and I spent the next years of my life in and out of psych wards, jail, different shelters and sometimes utterly homeless on the streets. It wasn’t until the age of 23 that I was able to get the help I needed to turn my life around and I still strive every single day to be the best version of myself that I can be. And one day, I know I will get there."