Listen to Breyon A.

Breyon is currently attending law school in New Mexico.

What caused you to experience homelessness?

My parents lost our house when I was a small child, resulting in the whole family being homeless.

What kinds of places did you stay when you were homeless?

I’ve stayed in motels, cars, parks, in the homes of friends and family, homeless shelters, and group homes.

Did you move around a lot when you were homeless, and if so, why?

We moved around a lot because we were always in search of a “better deal.” Motel rooms are expensive, so we were constantly trying to find a better deal. I also moved a lot when I was a teen because finding a safe place to sleep for the night is challenging.

What were some of the hardest things about staying with other people, or staying in a motel? How did it affect your physical health, your safety, your mental health and emotions, and your ability to focus on education?

Staying in a motel was challenging because my nuclear family consisted of 5 people, all of whom had to share a small motel room. Lack of privacy, inadequate facilities (there was no way to store or prepare food) and the general unsafe neighborhoods in which inexpensive motels are located make the whole experience hard. This is worsened by the fact that 3 of the people living in the motel room were under the age of 15. Safety is a major concern for homeless families.

Living in a family homeless shelter can arguably be seen as better than living in motels. The consistency, knowing where you will be sleeping every night, was the best aspect of shelters. But not knowing who you are living with, their criminal backgrounds etc., makes it really frightening for parents, especially if they have young children.

According to government regulations, people who are staying with other people are eligible for homeless assistance only if they can stay there for 14 days or less. To prove this, the government is requiring that people obtain a statement from the owner or renter of the place where they are staying. Would such a statement have been hard for you to obtain? Would you have felt comfortable asking the person who owned or rented the place where you stayed for a statement? Why or why not?

It would be really difficult attempting to get proof of residency when you are relying on the kindness of others to let you crash at their place. There are many reasons why people would feel apprehensive about disclosing their living situation to the government. Lease requirements often set a maximum occupancy for a resident, Section 8 (housing assistance) has similar regulations. This would be a lot to ask of someone, especially if you are only staying at their home for 2 weeks or so.

According to government regulations, people who are staying with other people are eligible for homeless assistance if they can prove that they moved twice in 60 days, AND they did not have permanent housing for those 60 days, AND that they have several conditions that would keep them without permanent housing for a long time. How would this policy have affected you? Would you have met these criteria, or could you have proved it? Why or why not?

I personally would not have met this criteria. It is challenging finding a safe place to sleep at night when you are homeless. It is challenging finding a safe place to keep your personal items, including the paperwork that would be necessary to meet this requirement. It is incredibly hard to prove that you have moved twice in the past 60 days when you are a homeless person. For the reasons mentioned in the above answer, it can be really challenging to find people who are willing to attest to the fact that you are staying with them.

According to government regulations, people who pay to stay in motels are not eligible for homeless assistance, unless they can prove that they only have money to stay for 14 days or less. What do you think of this policy? How would this policy have affected you?

This would have probably had a positive effect on my family when we were homeless together. I am sure my parents may have been able to show that they were only able to afford motel housing for two weeks. One of my parents worked when my family was homeless, so we were able to afford motel housing for limited periods of time. My concern with this regulation is that it doesn’t assist those who are able to afford motel housing for the two week requirement this statute specifies. How then are they able to benefit from these programs?

Take Action

Tell your U.S. Representative and U.S Senators that all homeless children and youth need help,­ no matter where they happen to be staying. Take action here.

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Listen to Youth

There is no better way to understand homelessness than listening to the children and youth who have been through it. Listen to what they have to say.

Get the Facts

The Homeless Children and Youth Act is bi-partisan legislation that would make it easier for local communities to help homeless children, youth, and families. Get the facts.

Featured Video

About the photos: Photos of children and youth experiencing homelessness provided by Diane Nilan, HEAR US Inc., used with permission. (c) 2012, Diane Nilan, HEAR US Inc.