For Proof: http://imgur.com/a/dfRSZW2
Hello, good morning! Per a suggestion by several kind redditors, I wanted to give a bit of my story here and to answer questions for the sake of sharing and possibly encouraging others who have lived in similar straights.
I am currently 30 years of age, and I was previously homeless for 7 years (19-26) between jobs, couch surfing, homeless shelters and the like. Prior to that, I was the textbook example of one of those children who ended up travelling about my state, lost in the system and this weird wheel we call life. As of now, I can say that that while I still have my struggles, emotional remnants leftover from what I'd experienced growing up, I am doing far better than I have in the entirety of my time being here, and while still difficult at moments, I still do my best. Please, ask me anything!
Any suggestions for how teachers of K-12 can help their students who are homeless?
How can community college professors help their adult students who are currently homeless?
Do adult students who were homeless for part or all of their childhood (but no longer are) have additional needs compared to their classmates who were never homeless?
I’m a community college prof, and I have had students who disclosed then current or past homelessness to me, and I feel like I don’t know what to do other than refer them to the Dean of Students (who can then refer them to the school food bank, or our free counseling services).
As for K-12, my suggestion is to be aware of the signs, as I am sure you know that not every kid is Keen on telling their home life due to stigma and fear. When I was growing up, in this case high school age, I ended up confiding in an English teacher I had met as she seemed to be very cognizant of the fact that I was dealing with something where I was living. I forgot entirely how she got me to talk, but once I did, she made it a point t to try and help me, and to make me feel as loved as possible. That sense of understanding went s long way, as I felt validated and less ashamed and angry at my circumstances, even marginally.
What's the nicest thing someone has done for you and what's the meanest?
Ah, another story comes to mind. So some time after, I ended up making friends with some random guy in the station, he was few years younger than I was and we sparked up a conversation about art and broke day doing so. He ended up asking me if I wanted to hang out with him as he was enrolled in community college, and so I thought "I genuinely have nothing better to do" so I said "Sure, why not? Can't hurt." And so when I get there I meet one of my now roommates, right? Her cousin and I ended up bonding as we were and still very much are a bunch of Fighting Game dweebs. So I made a friend and decided to visit him and when it came time to go, their oldest son started asking me where he could drop me off. I said "Oh at this train station is fine! Ill go from there." Then they started asking details, the thing I was trying to avoid. His parents have all the kids leave the room, and start asking me "So....what's up with your situation, young man" and that's how I ended up staying and bonding with these people for two weeks. They did not know me. I was just a friend of their son's, and yet they showed me kindness that TO THIS DAY I still attempt to return to them/pay them in actions, yet all they want me to do is visit them more. 😅
What prevented you from getting a job during those 7 years?
I don’t mean to sound condescending, I don’t know how else to word the initial question.
Could you not find something you liked? Did the companies not find you to be a good fit for the job? Could you not get accepted into a position in the first place?
It was intermittent work in all of that. I worked at an office, a Trader Joe's and a Panera knock off. I definitely did what I could to get by and took on any opportunities that I could land, if any. Now maintaining them, especially when I would have no place depending that was the kicker. Rest assured, there was couch surfing, but that was not always the case.
What do you feel is the largest hurdle to getting out of homelessness? How do we actually help those in our area?
Finances, honestly, and having the time and opportunity to even so much as think "Okay, okay, I have some time to not worry about roof and food. Now what?" Yeah, money aside it's definitely a emotionally and mentally challenging experience given you can't just think your way through it. Nothing is linear. 🙁
I'm sorry that this happened to you. As a formerly homeless adoptee, your situation speaks to my soul.
What recommendations do you have to change the system and keep your fate from happening to others who have lost their families?
Definitely a better vetting process in regards to providing services and far more contingency for youth aging out, especially in those early 20 years.
I'm a lawyer who represents kids in abuse and neglect cases - most in foster care. How long were you in foster care? Did you have an attorney and did they do anything for you? Is there anything you wish an attorney would have/could have done for you while you were in the system that they didn't? Anything that an attorney did for you that was really good or important or meaningful? It's a weird and fucked-up system and there's a lot of bad lawyering on all sides of that system - I'm always looking for ways to do better.
I was basically born into it, frankly. I officially became a ward of state at the age of six when my mother passed, as she was the only person eligible at the time who could or would attempt to gain custody of myself, and 2/3 of my other siblings. After she died, I remained in the system and even ended up removed from a foster I was in up until third grade at that point, and the rest was a travelers tale. Whether I had a lawyer or not, I do not recall entirely but good god, if I could have told them some of the treatment I received at the hands of the people(s) or places I ended up at, I'd be at least financially improved as they would absolutely have a case on their hands.
What is something you think people take for granted?
Frankly, opportunity when they are born into it or needn't struggle or feel like you're supposed to "earn" pretty mundane things, like love or acceptance.
Has being homeless impacted how easily/not easily you trust people? Congrats on turning your life around!
In ways, Absolutely. I recently panicked over a money issue with an S/O a few months back and I distinctly told, sadly in a fit of anger "I'm not going back there because of you". I think the worst way it got to me was not opening enough to trust that other people can or will keep their word when doing things for me, even with roommates I love as much as I now do. Oh, and the jealousy and assumptions along the lines of "None of you have had to live this way, what do you even know about this or life?" I'm still working at overcoming a LOT of internalized trauma
What helped you the most when it comes to actually making a living for yourself, from basically nothing?
Hm, probably doing my best to keep an open mind and not always tell myself "Don't stop, even if you think you're going nowhere" because while I say all of this, I basically just got by emotionally. I had no idea what I was doing or what I could do, and I really didn't take that well on an emotional level.
The homeless "cycle", if that's the right term, seems almost hopeless. Like, once one falls into homelessness, it seems terribly difficult to get out of it. Do you think your young age benefited you in terms of finding the will and drive to break the cycle? What's one negative and one positive trait your homeless period has left you with? For instance, I would imagine it difficult to fully trust others, as you might have always had to "watch your back" and look after yourself when on the street.
Is there a biggest issue that our social programs can address when it comes to homelessness? Is it drugs, mental illness, both or something else?
A cycle it was indeed, and yes I would venture to say that I was young enough to at least maintain some level of optimism. My problem is that my optimism was on a time limit as far as I was concerned. I started thinking "What if I can't get this together by like 26 or later? Who is going to help some 26 year old homeless guy?"
How would a $1,000 dollars per month affected your life at the age of 19? Also, now that you have more perspective, how would a $1,000 per month for everyone affect the homeless population?
Hypothetically, that would have been a HUGE leg up! Especially in my city, I could have had an apartment long since, just for starters
What’s the best story you can comfortably tell from being out for that amount of time?
I hope you met with positivity or at least had interesting and non-traumatic experiences along the way
Glad you’re well now, take care
I did! If there is anything, I had enough time to be able to be down for any events nearby or if someone had an option for me to go somewhere. And thank you for the well wishes!
Having been in your position, what's the best way in which we can help other homeless people today?
By typically not making assumptions of them and being willing to vote for and participate in services in your local área that seeks to help those people, preferably out of their situation. That and keep in mind these are indeed people and there is no telling how and/when they got to where they are.
How would you change CPS to improve outcomes?
Oh man, where to begin. So oddly enough, I did work in a non for profit that worked with the CPS in my state, and was even a member of the board of the court system. Frankly, the entire thing should be done with the rampant bureaucratic methods that these service providers tend to communicate with each other as well as more ingrained involvement in the communities where these situations are very common, like my own was.
After being Homeless for 7 years, what was the first night like when you finally got an apartment?
Oh man, so I had one apartment in my early 20s and I was in shock of the fact that "This is mine, no one can kick me out anymore!" As a fun aside, so had no bed initially, so I slept in my closet on an oversized peacoat for a bit. Never the less, I couldn't believe I finally had a space that no one else could really dictate but me. I had no idea what that was supposed to feel like
Has your perspective/ experience given you knowledge and/or skills which your average peer wouldn’t otherwise have?
Yes, usually in the way that I come off much older than I am, and I give the impression I'm closer to a much older man than a 30 year old and how I seem to be very understanding of others. That and I had to learn a lot of very harsh things earlier on, such as the finality of death, the cruelty and harshness of adults, and having that sense of childlike naivete never truly being afforded to me.
Did you find it significantly harder to sign up for businesses who only did online applications (instead of having physical applications) as you didn't have a great connection to the internet?
No, as I went to libraries and things like that to try and help my situation.
In your experience, does the little stuff help? I’m poor and I never have much extra to share but I try to have a dollar to give away all the time if someone asks, and in the winter I keep (new!) socks in my car to give out in case I see someone asking for help. I always feel a little bad though, like the person might think ‘really, if that’s all you can do, why bother?’ Is it nice to just get a tiny amount of help? Or is it kind of an insult that they aren’t doing more?
The little stuff always helps. I always did my best to remain grateful for anything that someone would do for me, despite a lot of the shortcomings that sprung up. And yeah, even now I'd say I'm still rather giving as a person, the rough times really shaped that outlook at least.
You mentioned that you couch surfed. What was the craziest place you stayed?
Good question! Probably the house of a fiscally irresponsible Deadhead who basically compounded my efforts to get out of my situation with his reckless spending and constantly wanting or needing more money, and usually sooner and sooner each each month until I made a decision to leave his place as hastily as possible as I refused to be subject to his nonsense. No major fallout, no big blow up, I simply left my then shift early at Trader Joe's early, went to his house, packed my things and left before he was home. A pity, as I liked listening to his music as he was a hippie, and I love the musical decades of the 50s-70s extensively
Over the years on the streets who do you remember the most that was
A. A civilian passing by B. A fellow homeless person C. Any cops
and what’s the story surrounding them be it positive or negative?
A: Hm, that's a tough one, there were a lot of people with that criteria. B: that's a tough one, as I remember many by name and experience. I did once meet a Jamaican Kung Fu instructor in a shelter named Devin and I LOVED that man he was like an informal instructor. C: None in particular that come to mind, as I didn't really have to encounter them often myself
what are your views on the support or lack thereof you received from the CPS?
It's a mixed bag, yet I wish I more cared for on a personal level. I've visibly people who seem to forget that the job they undertook involves human lives, more specifically children. Unfortunately, some people don't fully grasp this and tend to become dejected about the job due to the sheer amount for emotionally it can admittedly take.
Was finding work while homeless difficult? Every job application is online nowadays and requires a physical address as part of the process. Would you lie about where you lived? Because of the stigma around homelessness, did you ever have any issues with employers finding out about your situation?
So, I'm glad you brought up stigma, as at my one job at Dunkin Donuts, my then supervisor (abhorrent little man) would basically expect me to be hush hush about my being homeless, despite my appearance not really lending much to that, and If I was applying I had a proxy address I was allowed to use for mail. But yes, I absolutely tried to hide the fact if I could, I couldn't stand the thought of not being hired because of my living situation
What has been your mental health like, if you don't mind me asking? Do you find it easy to maintain relationships with other people?
It's not as bad as you'd think, bit it's enough so that therapy is definitely a thing that is in the works. I realized through a ton of trial and tribulation that I was still emotionally hostile and that I was still lashing out due to fear and previous things that had happened to me that I never fully addressed. Now that the threat of survival was off the table, I had plenty of time to be introspective and it's been....a learning process.
When you were a child of CPS, did you see any psychologists, counselors, doctors, or social workers who genuinely cared about you, and helped you?
I have accumulated a family of my own making in my travels, from workers, and others, so yes I did! Many of them were not permanent, as I was bounced about frequently, but I remember who cared. The contrast in their behaviors vs what I would normally see made it easy to discern, at least when I wasn't an emotional storm.
Hi there, your post has been removed because there is no proof with the post that connects your identity to the IAmA.
Please let us know when the proof has been added by replying here and we'll put the post back up. Cheers!
Ah, hello! How does one go about adding a photo AFTER s post has been made?
What do you feel is the biggest issue with homeless shelters, and do you think they actually provide any help and resources to combat homelessness?
The town I live in keeps creating these laws to “fight homelessness” but I feel they do the opposite- the laws include banning sleeping in vehicles except in approved campgrounds (you can’t sleep in your vehicle on private property, for example, even if you own said property), banning “camping paraphernalia” in your vehicle at any time (which includes utensils and sleeping bags), no sitting on the sidewalk, etc. Businesses are not allowed to have outdoor seating unless they bring in the tables and chairs before a certain time every night. With these laws, they also announced the opening of a new shelter “soon”, with most the previous ones having closed in the past few years for lack of funding and overpopulation. So, with laws like these, im wondering how you feel about shelters and programs in general.
I think they, being shelters and other services, are great! I've personally seen people really benefit and get to where and what they need, and it always makes me happy to report such things. With that being said, I am aware of the continued negative stigma, and the usual assumptions on what causes homelessness to even be the case (accusations of sheer laziness, usually with no consideration of nuance ironically) and it's abhorrent. It's even starting to happen around my city and it always leaves the thought of "So what do they do instead? Do they just go off to die somewhere? They need and always needed help, not what effectively amounts to a death sentence by way of being pushed out of sight" 😔
Seeing yourself as you are today, would you change your past if it meant changing your present?
Surprisingly, No! If I hadn't lived my life, there are a lot of people that I simply couldn't live without that I likely wouldn't have met otherwise, and so to have experienced those people makes this all worth it.
What can CPS do for foster kids to help kids be able to handle the transition out of foster care? In my state it ends at 18 years of age, which is during your senior year in high school. Which is a super hard time to have to take care of yourself financially.
In my state I believe it can be extended to roughly 21 and as for how, hm. Probably a more comprehensive means to make sure said kids can maintain their own placement, connect them with better housing resources, etc. This is tough, as even when I was aging out, I don't recall there being much to do after the fact. It was like "Well I guess this is it" barring things like FAFSA, of course.
Sadly, I live in Austin and know too many people like you with a similar story including in foster care since age 3 and homeless for the past 25 years. What do you think of the foster crisis in Texas? How do you feel about Austin arresting homeless people for criminal trespassing or in front of the only puny shelter throughout downtown, nobody has access to water?
I didn't realize that there even was a crisis admittedly. 🙁 That's terrible and Absolutely not helping the problem in any fashion. Why arrest them in front of one of the few places that they even CAN go?
Did you ever consider moving to a different state entirely and if so, which one? What did you hear about that place then and has your perception changed about it since getting out of homelessness (in terms of what you've heard or read)?
I was briefly out of state for a few months, a friend who knew my situation wanted to help me set up in PA. It didn't work out, and I ended up coming back home and actually did WAY better than I thought I ever could had I not left.
You said in another comment that you stayed at shelters and missions, can you describe the difference between the two, and give us a review of sorts?
I think the distinction is that a mission is usually associated almost exclusively with a church of some kind, whereas a shelter can be an entirely separate and independent organization. I hope that helps, as that's a good question and I barely have that answer
What was your day to day life like when you were homeless?
Frankly, it was a mixed bag, with one of the constants being that underlying sense of frustration and impatience that came from wanting to see things change as quickly as possible band trying not to think about thinks as if they were on a timeline.