Nowhere To Turn
"As long as you are living under my roof, you obey my
"What if I don't like your rules?"
"There's the door. Don't let it hit you on the ass on
your way out! And don't you dare come crying back to
me when you've got no place to stay!"
OK, I'm sure your parents have said something similar
to you at one point, right? Most of the time, parents
are just upset and they end up saying things they
don't mean. They apologize, you apologize and
everybody's happy. But what happens to those teens
whose parents really meant what they said?
The street is where most homeless teens go. The
thought of living on their own is exciting: no rules,
no punishments and no authority. Many of these teens
are too ashamed or too proud to admit that they are
homeless, so they remain on the street and don't seek
assistance from programs that can help.
A fair number of homeless teens "couch hop," in other
words, they stay at various friends’ and relatives’
homes. These teens are the lucky ones because they
have people who are helping them get back on their
The unlucky teens are those who quite literally have
nothing and nobody. Unfortunately, many of these teens
turn to drugs, alcohol, and gangs to forget their
troubles and numb their pain.
Stories From the Street
Through different organizations, I found some homeless
teens who were willing to share their experiences with
me. The only way I was able to tell these teens were
homeless was the fact that they stayed at shelters. In
fact, if I saw them on the streets, I would never have
"I started drinking when I first got kicked out," said
Angelina*, 16. Angelina's parents forced her to leave
after an argument about Angelina's slipping grades. "I
never touched alcohol before that! I didn't know how
to deal with all of the shit I was dealing with so I
would just get faded and eventually it just got out of
hand,” she said. “It's a quick fix, you know, but in
the end it only makes things a hundred times worse."
Angelina has been on the streets for about six months.
She told me that at first she stayed with friends but
after awhile, she felt like she was a burden. She then
took to the streets, finding food in restaurant
dumpsters, bathing in public restroom sinks, and
sleeping under bridges or on park benches until a
friend referred her to a shelter.
Harmoni, age 19, and her boyfriend, Darnell, 20 have
similar experiences. They were kicked out at the age
of 16 when Harmoni discovered she was pregnant.
"Both of our parents are very religious. They were
outraged that we had sex before marriage. They don't
believe in abortion, so their solution was to disown
us," she said. "We left home to stay with some friends
and I had a miscarriage. I was so sad. Darnell had
started doing drugs by then and I started doing them,
too." Darnell and Harmoni have cleaned up, moved in
with friends and are currently looking for work.
The Working Homeless
Not all homeless teens are runaways or banished from
their families. Several teens' parents have lost their
jobs in the rapidly declining economy. Take pre-teen
Sebastian, 12, and his 10 year-old sister Sally.
Sebastian and Sally's father, like many other people
across the U.S., was laid off from his job. Unable to
make payments, their home was foreclosed. They have
been staying with family off and on for a few months.
"It's hard to ask to stay at friends' and families'
houses. We're struggling," Sebastian said. "Some
friends know. They don't tease me or anything…they
mostly avoid that issue. To anyone in this same
position, I guess I would just tell them to stay
Imagine how hard it would be to be a homeless teen.
While all of your friends are worrying about what
they're going to wear, who's going out with who, and
where to kick it, you would be worrying about how
you're going to get money, how you're going to get
food and where you are going to sleep tonight.
We all take what we have for granted, and look at the
homeless people in our community with a blind eye. We
drop a buck into a homeless person's Styrofoam cup and
think, "Why don't they just get a job?" We never
consider the hardships these people have faced or the
reality that it is extremely difficult to be employed
without a permanent place of residence. Also, quite a
few homeless people are either mentally ill or
underage and are unable to work.
There are more people and more stories out in the
community than those shared with you in this article.
I hope I have given you, the reader, just a small
glimpse of what it is like to have nowhere to turn.
*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the