Listen to Hiep

Hiep M. attends American River College in Sacramento, California.

What caused you to experience homelessness?

I was homeless because of my sexual orientation. My long lost mom reunited with me after 15 years and brought me to America from Viet Nam. She then kicked me out when she found out that I am gay.

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

I was staying relatives (my aunt) for a while. Then I stayed with my friends, and I then moved to my teacher’s house before I got my own place.

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

I moved a round from one friend’s place to another and even to my teacher’s house. It was because my friend’s parents, although they were sympathetic to me, couldn’t let me stay for more than a week or two.

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?

I felt blessed that I was able to have a place to sleep, but it was very uncomfortable to live in someone else’s house. I was walking on eggshell and trying not to upset anybody. I was also too afraid to use the amenities as I would at my own place. I was in a weird way afraid that my stuff will get stolen or misplaced. I was nervous and depressed and feel abandoned. I was trying really hard to stay in school and get good grades, but my mind was occupied by the worry of finding a stable place to stay, food to eat and how to keep all my stuff from being lost or stolen.

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 don’t think that I would be comfortable to obtain such statement from my friend’s parents. It was already a hassle for them to let me stay there, so asking anything else from them will make me feel even more awkward.

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 would not know how to obtain the required documents, or how to prove the conditions I had other than telling the government in person. I didn’t have the support system I have now or the ability to speak English fluently to find out about the information that would benefit me.

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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.