Listen to Brittany B.

Brittany B. is currently a junior at Alabama A & M University.

What caused you to experience homelessness?

What caused me to be homeless was my mother’s inability to pay the rent. She had been behind for nearly four months before they finally evicted us. My eldest sister told me that I could not stay with her, so I ended up staying with my aunt, who I had just recently met. Then I stayed in my sister’s dorm. The residential assistant found out and I had to vacate.

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

I moved around a lot because everywhere I went I could not stay permanently. I was always at work or at school, so I never would just be at someone’s house just to be there. I would stay just to sleep and shower.

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?

The hardest part of living with someone else was that depending on where they stayed, I may or may not go to school. The public transportation in Alaska was not the best. I lost a lot of personal belongings, because sometimes I wouldn’t come back, or my friends would not give my belongings back.

Being homeless affected my mental health tremendously. Everyday I was having breakdowns and questioning myself, asking why I couldn’t be born in a normal family. I had asthma really bad and I did not have access to medical care, because my mom would not take me to the doctor. Her reason was that the Medicaid application had not been approved. So when I had a breakdown, which would turn into an asthma attack, I would exhale and inhale through a warm towel. My asthma was really bad. Sometimes if I left my aunt’s house late, I was risking the chance of having an asthma attack from walking speedily just to get to school on time. My teacher found out about my circumstance and let me have her inhaler.

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?

I think that it would make the living situation that is already uncomfortable even more uncomfortable. I always tried to stay gone when I lived with someone so that I wouldn’t be such a burden to them. When you are living with someone, getting documentation of where you are staying is not something that a person generally does. They are already doing you a favor by allowing your mail to come to their house. I also moved around a lot. I could not document every single place I stayed, because I may be at my friend house this week and then at my aunts the next.

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?

According to this policy I would not have been able to get assistance right away, because I would have to wait 60 days to see if I am eligible. I did meet the criteria. However, I think that if a person is homeless they should not have to wait 60 days. This is an emergency. Assistance should be given to them right away. I didn’t move twice in sixty days, sometimes I would move 3 times after 90 days. The environment I lived in was unstable. I could have proved it by the several different numbers I would give people, depending on where I stayed, since I did not have a cell phone.

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?

Living in a motel is not considered a home, they are still considered homeless. A person living in a motel or with friend, whatever the case may be should still be eligible for assistance. There are also other things that a person has to pay for. Such as food, laundry, transportation, etc. these are all things that I’m sure they cannot afford.

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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.