The Resilience of Homeless Kids…but not without long term emotional needs and support…
Who is the homeless? “Storied Streets” Watch this powerful documentary trailer…
I was moved today listening to Susan Sarandon on NBC Today talking about her new documentary “Storied Streets.” I know in my own community of Lincoln County Oregon, we have experienced an increase in the population of homeless children who go to school each and every day and survive and thrive…moving on with their lives in very responsible ways. These kids stay focused on getting a good education because they know this is the path to becoming a healthy and productive adult.
In my own experience as a board member of Neighbors for Kids, Depoe Bay, Oregon, and as a author and blogger, there are many stories of homeless kids who set a great example for others by overcoming the many challenges of surviving and thriving without the consistent emotional support of a stable and permanent home. We work hard to help kids find a strong footing and balance with healthy adult and peer support in our community. Most importantly we show love and compassion for children of all ages who join us each day during normal public school hours and out-of-school programs like Neighbors for Kids.
In my most recent book, My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 2, I included a special story, written by Jenny Green, a former homeless child. Following is an excerpt from my book, Chapter 3. in her own words as a homeless military child.
“It was during one of these summers when I was 12 about to be 13 and had to attend summer school, that Mom closed the door to me. It was my last day of elementary school, when I got home all the doors and windows were locked and Mom was not answering. I sat on the porch till 10pm wondering what had happened, asking neighbors if they had seen anyone at the apartment, nothing. I went to a 5th grade friend’s house, but her family did not want anything to do with stained clothed, ammonia smelling kid; they told me to leave and not return.
Under the glow of the dim street light I slept on the porch that night. The next morning I walked downtown to the amphitheater next to the Ohio River. I would sleep in and around this amphitheater for the next three months. Summer school did not serve lunch, so at night for food I would dig in the dumpsters of the local restaurants after they had closed. I remember eating half eaten fried chicken legs, macaroni salad with my fingers, licking pie filling off of paper plates, and using old napkins with lipstick stains smeared on them.
I remember being afraid to sleep outside at night; so I would walk around town, watch the trains, or sit and listen to the coal barges and tugs going up and down the Ohio River till dawn. I was also afraid of the local law enforcement, as I was scared of getting in trouble for being homeless and filthy. I did not know at the time that they would actually have helped me. I kept going home every other day and knocking on the door and no one ever answered, even though I could see the mail was picked up and curtains were moved.
The day 7th grade started, again I went back home and knocked on the door. To my surprise my mom answered the door. Dark circles under her eyes, dirty clothes, and matted hair is how she greeted me. I asked where she had been, and all she could say was that she had been busy. I told her 7th grade started today and I need her to go register me for school at the junior high, she agreed and we walked to school. I walk in the office with the same jeans, t-shirt, socks, and shoes I had been wearing for four months since the end of April, as people are staring at us I get registered for school and receive my class schedule.
Second period was algebra, and I hated math but I did not know that my life was about to change. I met my best friend Tracy; she didn’t care what I looked like or smelled like. In fact, later in the school year her Mom and Dad invited me over to their house as often as I wanted. They fed me, washed my clothes, and let me shower. By 8th grade I was living in their house. Mom still had custody of me but she allowed for my move. I was in their household ’till just after high school graduation with a 3.75 GPA, college bound, clean clothes and good food.
Someone had finally given me a chance to survive, and I thrived…”
Jenny Green has been working for Neighbors for Kids as our STEM Teacher for several years now. She is one of our most popular teachers. Jenny continues her higher education with the goal of a long term career in teaching K-12 science. Jenny also loves photography and spends her free time finding unique photo shots of the Oregon coastal region.
Please become involved in supporting homelessness in your community during this week of National Hunger and Homeless Awareness…and all year long…
Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page and order my book(s)… Jenny Green’s complete story is in chapter 3 of My Journey of Healing, Part 2.