This week's blogpost is from Justin, a local 24 year who identifies as "homeless". Please take some time to read his story as we reflect on the issue of youth homelessness during the month of November (and year round!).
The night was beyond cold. It must have been in the low twenties. I didn’t have a watch, but I think it was around two o’clock. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I had about four blankets and I was still shivering. I woke up and waited by the edge of the park for the sun to rise. From were I was I could usually see the large clock on the church across the street. It felt like a lifetime, but I was able to make it. The sunrise still gives me hope to this day.
The sun warmed me just enough to walk down to So Others Might Eat (SOME). I went there to eat breakfast. It’s good to know there are places to go for food, plus there, I could stay out of the cold for a while. It was Monday, so I had to wait till noon for the library to open. The blankets kept me somewhat warm, despite the wind. Once the library opened I knew I would be fine for at least eight hours.
The library seemed to be the only place I could fine solace. I would just read books on everything, even the encyclopedia. Religion and politics were my favorites, but I loved to read books on science and psychology as well. The reading was a diversion from the cold, the lack of food and sleep, and even the people who would bother me at night. I loved reading about activists the most. It impressed me how they were able to make so many positive changes, even when it seemed like the whole world was against them. It let me know that I could get out of my situation in due time.
Once night hit and the library closed I went back outside. I headed towards the food van from Martha’s Table. They would give out food (like) sandwiches and warm soup. Walking back to the park wasn’t fun at all. The cold wind made sleeping almost impossible. I couldn’t stand the people constantly bothering me; men and women of all ages always asking me if I wanted to make some money, or if I was looking for a friend. They acted like they cared, but all they wanted was to exploit me. At least I would see less of them during the colder months. After it finally got quiet I went back to sleep, and my whole day would start once again.
This was my life for quite some time. I had already been in an out of homelessness for a couple of years. I spent a lot of time figuring out what I wanted to do, till I decided I wanted to help people. It was arduous though. Not too many places want to hire a homeless person or even offer an internship. So I spent my time helping with different political actions and other project when I could. I still wished I could help in the community and still make a living, however. I still had hope that I could work things out.
Things got better when I finally decided to do something I rarely even do to this day, trust others. Over time I would hear about different opportunities from people I had met. Eventually I was able to get an opportunity with an organization called the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA). They were conducting the first ever survey of homeless youth in the District. It sounded like a great way to help in the community and get my foot in the door in the non-profit world. Helping with the survey helped me a great deal with myself. It gave me hope that others were really trying to make a difference in
Big thanks to Justin for sharing his story and for his involvement with the 2011 Homeless and Unstably Housed Youth Study!