Listen to Youth

Homeless and Formerly Homeless Youth Testify Before House Subcommittee, December 15, 2011

Homeless and Formerly Homeless Youth Testify Before House Subcommittee, December 15, 2011

There is no better way to understand homelessness than listening to the children and youth who have been through it – or who are still going through it.

On the Video Page, watch video-taped interviews of homeless youth and parents. Below, read what youth have to say about their experience of homelessness, and what HUD’s policies mean to them.

Jessica W., NY – “For my safety I could not stay in one place for too long. I would not have felt comfortable asking a person who I was staying with for the statement. I did not even want to admit to myself that I was homeless, and that my mother did not want me, so asking a person for a statement that said I was homeless and staying with them was not something I could have done, mentally. I was only 16 years old and that is expecting a lot from a child who was trying to find herself in a life/world that was cold to her.” Listen to Jessica.

Quang N., CO - “I couldn’t sleep at night, not only because of the yelling and disdainful words, but also because I was afraid they might just come in and rip off my books. This is why I always carry all of my important belongings and needed schoolbooks with me everywhere I go. I have a very hard time to actually focus on my studies, because somewhere in my mind, a worry of my mom being beaten, or myself being kicked out again unexpectedly, is always present.” Listen to Quang.

Allison C., TX – “To you, I probably wasn’t homeless. You are wrong. I had a roof over my head yes, but I didn’t have a home. People don’t want a 17-year-old female living with them. Especially a damaged one. It was hard to find a place to stay, and apartments will not rent to someone under the age of 18. I stayed where I could when I could.” Listen to Allison.

Irene S., TX – “In the third grade, I found out I was diabetic. In the fourth grade, my mom had to pull me out of school because a friend had kicked us out. I didn’t get to say bye to any of my friends, and I never went back to that school. I cried so much that my blood sugar was at 550. A doctor later told me that for my age, I was lucky not to have gone into a coma. Emotions get in the way of staying healthy, sometimes; in this case, the stress hurt me the most.” Listen to Irene.

Rumi K., PA – “One of [my mom’s] friends from work offered to let us stay there. Her friend changed and would get really mean with me. Sometimes she was nice but you never knew when she would smack her son or pull his hair. Once the lady pushed me up the stairs and she was really mad at me. When my mom said something to her about pushing me up the stairs she told my mom to just leave.” Listen to Rumi.

Brittany K., OH – “I feel that making youth document their homelessness through the people they couch surf with will only create another barrier and more frustration with the system. None of the people I lived with would have been willing to document that I was living there. They would have been suspicious and afraid of getting in trouble. Also, many of them I didn’t know well enough to ask them.” Listen to Brittany.

Swami M., IL – “We would constantly have to relocate to different shelters after we had spent the maximum time allotted at that facility. Then we tried staying with people we knew – I supposed my mother thought that would give her more time to stabilize. Unfortunately, we became unwanted guests. For my relatives, they had their own families to support and could only shelter us for so long. And friendships between my mother and her friends eventually faded which meant we would be on the move again.” Listen to Swami.

Destiny R., FL – “When Beth pays for the motel room, we are considered homeless. When my dad pays for the motel room, we are not considered homeless. That doesn’t make sense to me. It’s the same hotel room, and it’s hard to live there when you are young, no matter who pays.” Listen to Destiny.

Hiep M., CA - “I was also too afraid to use the amenities as I would at my own place. I was afraid that my stuff would get stolen or misplaced. I was nervous and depressed and felt 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.” Listen to Hiep.

Brandon D., IL - “It would have been very difficult for me to verify my living situation when I was growing up. To ask for proof that an adult allowed me, a homeless child, to live with them for only 14 days would possibly cause some adults to feel guilty or worry that they could get in some trouble. I didn’t want anyone that was helping me to get tired of my presence.” Listen to Brandon.

Brooklyn P., NY - “When we lived with other people, they were not always nice to us. We couldn’t ask them for anything. They were mostly mad that we were there and did not want anyone else to know, especially their landlord. They would never let us say we were there. My mom could never tell anyone where we lived, or for how long. It was like being invisible.” Listen to Brooklyn.

Eunsoo C., WA – “I stayed at my friends’ houses and it only lasted for a short amount of time since it was hard to just live at a friend’s house without contributing anything. Also, I always had to feel left alone or lonely, abandoned. I got sick of feeling this way, and had to change my environment constantly.” Listen to Eunsoo.

Breyon A., NM – “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 inexpensive motels are located in 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.” Listen to Breyon.

Brittany B., AK - “I had asthma really bad, and did not have access to medical care. 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.” Listen to Brittany.

Take Action

Tell your U.S. Representatives that all homeless kids need help­ no matter where they happen to live. Take action here.

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, HR32, would make it easier for homeless children, youth, and families to receive homeless assistance, no matter where they happen to be living. Get the facts.

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H.R. 32 Supporters

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.