Hiding Teen Homelessness

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I was 13 years old the night I became homeless. I was fighting with family — that happened a lot — and my mom finally told me to get out. I could tell it was serious this time. So I did. I just folded my social security card and my birth certificate into my wallet, and headed to the railroad tracks

The first night I spent outside, it was raining. I leaned up against a broken down truck with no doors. It was like a little music video in my head. I was so depressed. I remember thinking, why is my life this way when I’m so young?

Later, when I talked to my friends about it, they were like, why didn’t you hit me up? But I didn’t want to feel like I was in the way. That’s what my family put on me. I felt like I was in the way all the time.

As a teen, I hid my homelessness from most people. If I was talking to a school counselor especially, I’d tell them you know, everything at home is going good. I would just make up stuff because I wasn’t sure what would happen. Like maybe they’d bring in Child Protective Services or try to put me on foster care or take me out of this town where all my friends lived. I was afraid of that. So I didn’t tell anyone.

For a few years, I moved around a lot, staying on couches or shelters or outside, being nomadic. Eventually, I got old enough to start working to save up money to get myself off the streets. Now I’m 20 years old. I have a stable place to live, I recently got my GED.

When I tell my old teachers and coworkers that I was homeless, they’re always so surprised. “But you were so well kept,” they say. You couldn’t tell looking at you. That was the point, though. Many homeless teens don’t want anyone to know. Not because we don’t need help, but because we have too much to lose.

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