Now that we know more about homeless teens and the challenges they are facing, let’s hear about it from them. The teens who are dealing with homelessness.
Homeless Teens – Their stories
When I started looking into this issue, it really struck me that there were teens out there having to make it happen for themselves. I live in Minnesota where winter isn’t a great thing to have to deal with when you can’t come home to a nice warm house with dinner waiting for you.
Did you see this quote about homeless youth?
What is wrong with this statement? There are some harsh realities that we must face in this society. The fact that we have homeless teenagers out there is one of them.
This week I am going to feature the stories of two teens who have worked through homelessness and made themselves into the great people they are today. The stories are inspiring by how they navigated the challenges, but there are ways to prevent them from experiencing homelessness.
Each teenager that goes through this has an unique story to tell.
Stories from the Street: A Response to Youth Homelessness
This article I found on Shared Justice website focused on teen homelessness. The writer, Chelsea Maxwell, talks about her experience interviewing homeless youth who were living in a women’s crisis center for this online article. I wanted to share a couple of those stories in this post.
A hug is always exchanged when Nicholas is around. When we first met in a conference room with pale yellow peeling paint at a local community center, he was introduced to me as a passionate advocate and mentor. After a few moments of conversation, his infectious smile and laugh make you feel like you are with an old friend. Nicholas has a confidence about him that brings power to his testimony. As a young boy, he was witness to much violence in his home and community. When he came out as gay to his family, he became a victim of the violence. Still, the known fear of the mental, physical, and sexual violence at home seemed less frightening than living on the streets or in shelters. That choice was soon taken away from him when his father kicked him out. Nicholas slept in shelters when he could and in parks when he had no other option. He battled depression and post-traumatic stress. Additionally, the violence and exploitation did not stop: “Everyone wants something from you, and if it’s not cash, it’s sex.”
Thoughts about Nicholas’ story
Did you know that 40% of homeless youth identify themselves as LGBT. This is a staggering number of teens and young adults who like Nicholas above, may have become homeless because they identify as LGBT. In our role as parents and caring adults we may have to stop and think about how we view our teens and young adults and decide if we are really accepting them for who they are and not trying to put them into an image of what we want them to be.
Samuel was twenty years old when I met him, and I was immediately curious by the way he carried himself. He had almost perfect posture except he rarely looked up from his lap. His shoulders were broad, his jaw square, and he had a voice deep. If I had passed him on the street, I might have mistaken him for a grown adult. He spoke infrequently, but passionately as he shared his thoughts or anecdotes from his life. Samuel entered foster care after a brief experience in the juvenile justice system. He bounced around group homes before he turned eighteen and decided that the only way he was going to get out was to enlist. He quickly realized that he was not well-suited for the army, but tried to persevere. Several months in, he was told he lacked certain necessary characteristics and was discharged. While awaiting exit, he was not allowed to use the phone or computer to make plans. When he was allowed to leave, he had nowhere to go.
Thoughts about Samuel’s story
In Samuel’s story, he seems to be the typical teen who gets into trouble and starts making decisions for his live based on what he knows and not with help or support from a parent or caring adult to help him transition from the juvenile justice system or the military.
These stories are real situations that happened. We could hope that Nicholas wouldn’t have been in an abusive home and had a negative response to him telling his family he was gay and we could hope that Samuel had a better experience in foster care. But, I think they are inspiring in the fact that these teens got into situations where becoming homeless was the only option available to them that they could see and they took it.
What can we do to help?
These stories should inspire us to want to do something to help. Like I talked about in last week’s post, Why are there homeless teens?, youth and young adults need stable housing, supportive connections to caring adults, and access to mainstream services that may place them on a path to long-term success. Reunifying youth with family or a support system, when safe and appropriate, should be at the core of any approach.
Another great resource is Stand up for Kids. works on breaking the patters that are creating teen homelessness.
All teens should have a chance to be successful and have access to help to get there. Organizations must provide these services to the teens who need them. The fact that they are homeless means they qualify.
Again, the importance of open communication with their parents and caring adults about the issues they are facing is key. Both teens and adults must be open to listen to each other, make compromises and seek outside intervention where appropriate. This interaction could go a long way to reducing the numbers of teens who are homeless.
The Way Series
Are you looking for a couple of coming-of-age reads for you or your teen about challenges they face? One great series which fits the bill is The Way Series. It is the series I have written under my pen name, Selma P. Verde.
Book #1 – The Hard Way – is the story about Paul Jones. He is starting his freshman year of high school learning how to navigate pressure from his peers to fit in.
Book #2 – Shawn’s Way – Is a continuation of Paul’s journey from The Hard Way, where we meet freshman, Shawn Townson. He becomes the target of a bully when an upperclassman decides to take out his frustration on him.
Book #3 – The Street’s Way – is a continuation of The Way Series. Now we introduce Mikala Kalani as a runaway and homeless teen. Coming your way in early 2024.
So, click on link below to my books page to learn more about the series! And, pick up your copies before the release of The Street’s Way.