Homeless in All Ages
Being homeless in and of itself is horrible and stressful, however, being homeless and a teenager is even worse. Due to the fact you have a young mind and you are more perceptive to negativity. Being a homeless teen can be depressing because you have nowhere to go, no family, no friends and not very many people can help you.
You don’t know what to do, do you try to continue schooling or give up the chance at a high school degree and just get a job? What if you aren’t old enough to get a job? What are you supposed to do then? Panhandling is what most homeless people resort to, which is embarrassing, no one likes to ask strangers for money, however that is the only option they have left. What makes it even harder, we have privileged people who have never had to pray for their next meal, hoping it comes soon, judging them.
In Utah around 2014, it is estimated that 13,621 persons experience homelessness. Families make up 45 percent of the total homeless population. In 2008, at the time of the recession the number of homeless teens was a at 11,270. Since 2012 homelessness has steadily been decreasing, however it is still a big problem today. The average homeless person has a life expectancy of 47, compared to 77 for the rest of the population: a startling difference of 30 years. The life expectancy for women was even lower, at just 43 years.
Homeless and Sickness
It is no surprise that many homeless people suffer from many different diseases and disabilities, both physical and mental. However with homelessness come losing insurance, which means they can’t get the right help. Without help the sicknesses worsens. One of the main reasons homeless people get sick is because they don’t have the ability to shower. This can cause many different illnesses such as: hepatitis A, B, and C, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.
These diseases can also be caused by compromised immune systems, poor nutrition and hygiene, and frequent overcrowding at shelters. Other health problems that may result from homelessness include malnutrition, parasitic infestations, dental and periodontal disease, degenerative joint diseases, venereal diseases, hepatic cirrhosis secondary to alcoholism, and infectious hepatitis related to intravenous (IV) drug abuse. For even the most routine medical treatment, the state of being homeless makes treatment extraordinarily difficult. The need for bed rest is complicated, if not impossible. When the patient does not have a bed, or must leave the shelter in the early morning. For example, diabetes, usually is not difficult to treat in a person. For most people, daily insulin injections and control of diet are adequate. In a homeless person, however, treatment is virtually impossible: Some types of insulin need to be refrigerated; syringes may be stolen or, sometimes, the homeless diabetic may be mistaken for an IV drug abuser. Also, the diet of a homeless person cannot be controlled, due to the fact that the soup kitchens serve whatever they can get.
Frostbite is one of the main skin diseases in the homeless person, since the homeless shelter is first come first serve, while might not be that big of a problem in the summertime, it is a huge problem in the winter. As it gets colder at night, more people head for the shelter, which makes finding a bed an impossible act. This means that for a few nights out of the week you are sleeping outside, where frostbite will surely set in. Frost pain causes a lot of pain, and in the worst-case scenario, the death of a limb. Each year, about 700 homeless people die from hypothermia.
Work Force and The Homeless
When some one who has never had to struggle through life looks at homeless person, the scowl and say, “If you just got a job you wouldn’t be homeless anymore.” This in itself is completely false. For one it’s not as easy as it was for you, they have problems with hygiene and contact ability, for two transportations is even more difficult, and for three the loss of a job and not be able to find another one is probably why most of them are homeless.
The first difficulty people face in finding a new job, is the fact that there are not many out there, or the jobs that are hiring require certain types of skills or education, and for a person that couldn’t afford college when they were young or couldn’t pass high school, makes the amount of jobs available much scarcer. If they do somehow find a job that fits with their abilities, and are willing to hire them, there is no way to contact them, unless they go to a library and use the computers every day, however, it is not promised that they will be allowed to use them. Also, have you even showed up to an interview, smelly and underdressed, with untamed hair and stains on every piece of clothing you have? That makes it even harder for them to get hired, that’s only if they’re able to find transportation to the job sight, for the interview.
Therefore, finding and getting a job is much more difficult to do for them then it is for you. Besides that, fact most of them just don’t have the energy for it anymore. So instead of glaring or making snide comments, try having a conversation with one of them or simply smile and wave, that little bit of positivity in their life makes a huge difference to them.
Like I said earlier being a homeless teen is even harder than being a homeless adult. You must make adult decisions with such a young mind. The struggle with school and eventually are forced to give up school due to lack of hygiene, sleep, and other things. This causes major damage to their future. There are many causes towards homeless teen, their parents could have kicked them out for many reasons, pregnancy, coming out as homosexual, or drug abuse. Another reason is their legal guardians could have abandoned or passed away on them.
There are many different roads a homeless teen, the first one they can fight to be strong enough, fight against all odds to not give up, and they might be able to get off the street one day. Another one, they could turn to drug abuse and gangs, with their young manipulatable mind, this is the case for most homeless teens, this street can end in incarceration or even worse death.
Now for a success story one that I found in my own home town in Utah. This only happen to select few homeless people, this person was very lucky, and they want to share their story. However, they wish to remain anonymous. So, without further ado here is the interview.
Q: How old were you when you were first introduced to homelessness?
A: I was 14 years old
Q: What was the reason behind becoming homeless
A: My family was divided and my legal guardians past away.
Q: What was the first thing you thought when you first became homeless
A: What was I going to do and how I was going to survive.
Q: How long did you remain homeless?
A: 2 Years.
Q: How did being homeless affect your schooling?
A: I started failing school, I tried really hard to go and stay in school, but in the end, I ended up dropping out to get a job.
Q: How hard was it to find and get a job?
A: For me it wasn’t that hard, because I was referred by people I met on the streets
Q: How did you take care of yourself with hygiene and sleeping?
A: I stayed at multiple different peoples houses and used their showers and couches.
Q: When you first became homeless how did you eat?
A: People I knew would give me food or I would just go without eating.
Q: Did you have any problems with gangs, drug abuse or alcohol, in you or the people that surrounded you?
A: My friends associated their life with drugs, I however, used alcohol as a coping mechanism for depression and stress.
Q: With being depressed and having your friends surrounding you with drugs how did you not give into drug abuse.
A: I watched what it did to my friends and how it killed some of them, and I didn’t want that life for myself.
Q: How did you get yourself off the street, what did you do next?
A: After I finally got a job, and saved enough money, I found a cheap apartment I could move into. After I got the apartment I signed back up for school and got another job, so I was working two jobs and going to school.
Q: How has your life changed since then?
A: After a while I met the love of my life, got married and had a few kids. I am so glad I fought to have the life I have now. I don’t know where I would be today, if I had given up.
So, in conclusion, don’t underestimate how hard it is to deal with homelessness. If you see one of them on the street, be humble and kind. Help if you can, think what it would be like, if this person you just seen was you. What would it take for you? Maybe just a kind smile is all it takes. You don’t have to give money, just volunteer some of your time, or you could even donate canned goods or clothes you don’t wear anymore. Currently in this day and age and our economy, helping out, being positive and lending a hand is the best thing you could do because one day it could be you. It is so much easier to lose everything then it is to get it all back.
Why don’t they want me
How could they leave me
Why is this life not what it’s meant to be
On a rainy day
The cold clings to me
Threatening the only warmth I have left in me
On cold nights like this
I think of the day
I lost everything
the ability to strive
You left me here
To fight for me life
To fight for my future
But it’s not as easy as it seems to be
With the whole entire world looking down on me
With every step that I take
I’m threatening to break
The glares from you to me
And the fact that I can’t eat
I’m getting weak
I’m losing the ability to speak
Then I saw you standing
With the most beautiful stare
That captivates me
As I look down I see
That she’s holding something out to me
With warmth in my hand
And a grateful smile on my face
I can’t give up
I will stand up
I will find my own way
By: Winter Judd
Thank you from all of us here at The Resiliency Alliance