With over 50 years of mental health recovery, I was flourishing. In my mid-fifties, I had my first full time job in years. I was working using knowledge and experiences from academic training and my personal recovery. I felt secure in my ability to overcome life challenges. I was proud of the effort I invested in my recovery and my work with a group of knowledgeable and passionate folks helping others overcome the challenges of homelessness, mental illness, trauma, and substance abuse.
Security. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. I grew up in a home marked by addiction, dysfunction, and for a period of time, poverty. While I knew my parents loved me, my father’s alcoholism set the tone for much of my childhood. As I got older, left home, and engaged in my own much healthier relationships, I thought I had escaped unscathed. In many ways, my sibling took away some of the more common traits of being raised by an alcoholic parent, but I didn’t seem to carry these with me.
When I go to a shelter, I don’t get any sleep. Sometimes it's because people wake up at 4:30 am and scream at the top of their lungs. Sometimes it’s because people are up watching TV and walking around.
But mostly, it's because the shelter is not a safe place. The first time I went to a shelter, I was 18 years old. I thought my life was over, and that I would have no social life. As a gay male, I was immediately harassed. I went to sleep every night just wishing that it would be over and wondering why I didn’t have my own place or at least some privacy.
“I SEE YOU BUT DO YOU SEE ME?”
That’s the sign I used to fly when I was homeless.
It served a double meaning for me. One meaning was to get the attention of anyone who just walked past without even looking at me or acknowledging me – like I was a piece of trash. You could see people thinking that every homeless person is the same, thinking that we all have the same story, that we all wind up on the street for the same reason. They couldn’t be more wrong.
In January 2014, I was 19 and in a hospital. When the staff decided I was ready to leave, I met with a social worker who gave me the phone numbers of shelters. She did her best.
I walked out of the hospital and onto the street. Soon after I left, I went to a pay phone and called some of the numbers. I was hoping someone would help me figure out where I could sleep that night. But, no one answered the phone. I stood at the pay phone feeling embarrassed and hopeless. I’m not the type to ask for money or other necessities. I wandered around Cambridge, hoping that something would happen.
During the holiday season last year, my son and I were staying in a small church-run shelter. From 8:30 am to 5 pm, I had to leave to sit in an old church basement adjacent to the shelter’s office
It was a big room with some tables and chairs scattered around and a corner with some kids toys and a couch. The room was cold and dusty, and there was mouse poop behind the radiators. It smelled the way you would imagine an old church basement would smell. My son was just learning to walk and would often crawl across the floor, leaving his hands and knees dirty.
This post is second in a series of stories from youth about their experiences of homelessness and resiliency. Thank you to each of the authors who have so generously shared personal details of their lives for the benefit of others. We are inspired by their courage and hopes for the future. We must learn from their stories and partner with them to implement effective, meaningful solutions.
I was recently invited to moderate a panel on homelessness. When I asked who would be on the panel, the organizer listed a number of prominent names in the field. I spent a moment feeling impressed and excited about the possibility of rubbing elbows with these individuals…and then I asked if there were any people on the panel who had experienced homelessness.
Critical Time Intervention (CTI) is a case management model originally designed to prevent recurrent homelessness by connecting individuals with supports in their community. It provides flexible, individualized, and focused support after a person transitions from shelter to housing. Here are six reasons CTI might be just what your community needs:
- CTI can reach more people than other models.
This post is first in a series of stories from youth about their experiences of homelessness and resiliency. Thank you to each of the authors who have so generously shared personal details of their lives for the benefit of others. We are inspired by their courage and hopes for the future. We must learn from their stories and partner with them to implement effective, meaningful solutions.
When I was 21, I was living in a group home run by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in the South End of Boston. I had been living there for a few years and was growing more and more frustrated with my situation. I didn’t have a lot of freedom to have friends and to do stuff that I felt other 21 year olds were doing. I couldn’t even have my cell phone when I was in the house. I knew my time with DCF was coming to an end. Maybe I was also scared and nervous about what was going to happen next since we had done little to no planning. I mostly felt frustrated and wanted my freedom.
The United States faces a deeply troublesome, maddeningly persistent racial gap in income and wealth -- a gap that is growing, not shrinking. According to McKernan and colleagues at the Urban Institute, the income ratio between whites and blacks is approximately 2:1, a number that has remained essentially unchanged over the past three decades. More troublesome is the 6:1 wealth ratio between whites and blacks. This suggests that white privilege dominates and results in greater financial prosperity for whites, while leaving black families and individuals out of the nation's economic growth and recovery.