My Story
By Anonymous Author
I am not a journalist. I have no college degree in journalism, social services or any other field. I am a formerly homeless person with a real/authentic homeless experience. I also have the real experience of somehow getting off the streets and slowly finding my way to what society calls ‘home’. Here is a beginning to my story:

When I turned 18, my family disowned me. I applied for community college but was evicted from my apartment and my student loan was terminated. I moved in with some students I just met, who were nice enough to take me in, but I felt like a charity case and knew it was temporary.

With no way to pay the cost of living, and no desire to burden the kind people who allowed me to stay with them, I packed my backpack with what I thought I would need to survive, including a sleeping bag, and slipped out the back that night. With very few options in sight, I started hitchhiking, trying to find somewhere – anywhere – I belonged.

In San Francisco, I stayed on Upper Haight where I saw a lot of people my age seemingly in the same situation as me. I was 19 soon to be 20. I slept in the Buena Vista Park mostly. Sometimes I would stay in the Golden Gate Park. I was already so discouraged by the cards I’d been dealt though, that I was suffering from depression and could not grasp the idea of being social as a young homeless “man.” So I often kept to myself.

After four months in S.F., I got a ride with some strangers to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Arriving in Chattanooga, I knew no one, and felt very lost and alone. That night, I searched until I found what seemed a safe place to sleep. I slept terribly, and awoke to someone who owned the property I occupied. She took me to a place she thought would be a safe place for me to stay. But it wasn’t. There I was assaulted and held in captivity for many months.

This type of experience being homeless became somewhat common for me throughout the next seven years. Being treated like garbage by many people, having no voice, being exploited by people with predatory tendencies, moving from city to city in search of hope, sleeping in parks and being chased out and ticketed by police for trespassing.

Even though it is important not to portray homeless people as victims, it’s just as important to see that many homeless are victims, and their cries are real. I didn’t even know I had been targeted, exploited, and victimized by those who prey on homeless and other minorities until several years later, when I got off the streets and started to receive mental health services. I am offended when people who have never been homeless try to accuse homeless people of falsely portraying themselves as victims as an attempt to receive media attention. There are real victims that are homeless who have suffered much worse than I, who are in need of real help.

During my time as a homeless transition-age-youth, I encountered services for youth and/or transitionage- youth very rarely, and when I did, the services were extremely limited. The only homeless services provided to 18-24 year old homeless that I encountered were those shelters and drop-in-centers designed to serve adults 35 and older. Unfortunately, this reality for transition-age homeless, age 18--24 hasn’t changed much, even now. Take Sacramento for example.

There are little to none transition age youth shelters in Sacramento. There is one ‘youth’ shelter for under 18. There are your typical shelters, such as Salvation Army and other existing shelters that have been here for years, overpopulated and understaffed, but virtually no transition age youth shelters for the 18-24 year old homeless population.

These homeless age 18-25 are the ones who have and continue to flood the Salvation Army and other shelters or sleep by the river. When ten years later at age 28-35 they are still homeless, its largely in part due to the extreme lack of services for the 18-24 year old homeless population.
1.8 million children in the United States are homeless. And for youth, this is the most desperate time since the Great Depression. Most cities have made no effort to identify and assist homeless youth. In Los Angeles, the latest “undercount” of homeless youth revealed that there is shelter capacity only for 17% of the 3600 kids living on the street. And for the 8,000 kids coming across the border – unaccompanied and without documents – the lack of services means exploitation and even exposure to being trafficked.

As for me, after about seven years of chronic homelessness, eating out of dumpsters, struggling with addiction, in and out of jails and institutions, I was driven into the system by the courts. I was put on formal probation, subject to random drug testing, and required to have court slips signed by group facilitators. Because of this, I got myself into the Salvation Army shelter, and submitted to theserequirements.

From the Salvation Army, I moved into a series of “transitional living progams.” I was 27 at the time. All of the men that lived in the house were 50 and older. They had issues with addiction and looked down on me for my determination to stay straight.

So, is this what people mean when they talk about the impossible maze that the homeless are forced to navigate through, should they decide to access these so-called “homeless services” to get themselves off the street? I believe a book could be written on the impossible maze of navigating through the homeless service providers.

In conclusion, I am no longer homeless, and have been home-free for some ten years now. I have been clean and sober over nine years and love it. My hope is to continue my sober journey until my death. It is the best high I have yet to experience.

Just under five years ago, I serendipitously landed a job working for a homeless service provider organization in Sacramento. I consider myself, though not formally educated in social services, to have the street education equivalent to a PHD in the field.

I believe in the work I do. I believe that just caring enough about a homeless person to hear their story can make all the difference, and I live for that today. I know if there is hope for me, there is hope for any homeless person, despite any unjust opposition from society that the homeless may face.