The Last Word: At Home with the Homeless
Children shouldn’t have to live with the nightmare of domestic abuse, nor should they have to ask the question “Mom, what’s an eviction notice?” However, these were situations I was familiar with by the time I was 10.
I only want to tell the story of how I am a perfectly functional young adult who is taking steps to become successful in this world. But I realize it’s impossible to tell that story without telling how I rose above every trial to get where I am today.
My father was killed when I was 2-years old, leaving my mother to do whatever necessary to care for me, but she was so strung out on crack that we were in-and–out of halfway houses or living with men who beat her nearly to death in front of me. I remember what it was like to be a scared, abandoned 8-year-old, in a cold house, in the middle of the winter, with no food and an eight-year-old sister clinging to me for warmth.
I grew up partly in upstate New York, a beautiful place, but because my mother squandered every bit of money she had on crack and booze, most of our free time was spent standing in lines at food banks and welfare offices. When I was in third grade, we got evicted from the first house I remember living in. Thus began a series of unfortunate events: Mom does crack and sells everything, her boyfriend beats her, goes to prison, we get evicted in the middle of winter and move into a half-way house, where I eat cereal with powdered milk every morning … and oh yea, mom’s got a warrant for her arrest, so now we’re on the run.
Finally, in February of 1999, we moved to my grandparents’ house in South Carolina. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of our struggles. Life was good for a while, but soon my mother found crack again and the cycle started all over again.
After my mother checked into rehab, I moved in with my grandparents permanently. It was the first time that I had stability, and didn’t have to be afraid to come home from school. Papa and Nana taught me work ethic, honor, and dignity; basic values to base your life around. From there, I did my best to excel ill school. I believe education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, but how can a child focus on school when their home life is a nightmare? Street Sense has become an extension of my journey, though even getting here, I had to fight. I see my experience in the impoverished that I interview and the vendors I sell the paper to. Street Sense gives me the chance to find solidarity in my experience, because now I know that I was never truly alone and neither are the people we write about.