Neighboring The Neighborless

So Who Are The Homeless? I'd Like You To Meet Alex.

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This is Alex. He's just 18 years old, a recent high school graduate. The sign he's holding says

HOMELESS TEENS
PLEASE HELP
ANYTHING HELPS
Thank you SO MUCH!

Alex's mom is married to an alcoholic. There was a showdown at home last August and his stepfather said, "either the kid goes or I go." As it so often happens in an abusive home, out of fear, Alex's mom tearfully told him, "I'm sorry," and he found himself on the streets. In early September, he came to the city from a suburban town hoping to meet up with other kids and maybe find some work to do. Four months later, he was still on the street.

Alex tells me that he tries to keep a low profile so that he won't get roughed up by anyone. On the day we met, I took him into Dunkin' Donuts for some food. He didn't want to take advantage of me so I had to play the mom card and order him to actually accept a full combo meal and not just a sandwich. He smiled shyly and asked if he could have a hot chocolate, too. My heart shattered. And yes, he got his hot chocolate.

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6 Comments

Julia said:

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Kelley, this is such an important blog entry. Homeless teens are often considered runaways-- as if they had a choice. This breaks my heart! Thanks for making us aware of the diversity of the homeless in our communities--this really does put a face on homelessness.

Kelley said:

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Julia, you are so right! Alex is such a sweet kid - one of the most difficult aspects of what I do is that I want to rescue everyone one of these kids I meet, bring them into my home and pack 'em in like cord wood. I know my role at this time, though, is to help them get through until they've either found a permanent home or they've moved on to another community. Who knows where this journey will take me, though? I'm open to whatever opportunities arise!

Nostrilb said:

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When you met with these people, did you happen to ask them what city resources they have found or used?

Kelley said:

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I sure do - thankfully, I have a mentor who was a highly respected social worker here in the city until she retired a few months ago. She has been an invaluable source of information and every resource she provides I gladly share.

Thanks so much for asking!

Joanne said:

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This was me at 18 years old. I was fortunate to have a car to sleep in though. This breaks my heart. I hope he finds his way or is able to find a program/organization that will help him get on his feet again like I was able to. Thank you for writing this blog and putting names to the faces we see every day.

Kelley said:

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Joanne, thank you for your input; I think people would be shocked to learn how many young people have to start their lives this way. I'm glad you found your way out - and I'm with you regarding Alex and the other young adults I've met on the streets!

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