Homelessness can be invisible

Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It's that time of year again. Christmas is said to be a time for giving and caring, but there are lots of families with children who don't have a place to stay. Believe me, I know from experience - and it sucks not to have a place to call your home.

Other than St. Vincent's, it seems that nobody does much to try to help families with kids. You don't have to do much. You can donate to a charity.

For most of the last two years, I was moving house-to-house. We'd live in one place for a couple of months or so, then we would move to another. When you're living in someone else's house, you don't have your own space.

One time we moved in with my cousin, his girlfriend and their kids in a trailer. It had three bedrooms, one bath and a kitchen that was pretty much falling off the back. There were eight of us. All I wanted was my own space. I felt like I was going to suffocate.

Another time, we moved in with my aunt, uncle and their kids. There were ten of us. We three kids got our cousin's tiny room. There wasn't even a path to walk through. Our parents got the family room. We were there three months, tops, and then moved to another cousin's place. After we lived there for about a month, we all started getting on each other's nerves. We kids were getting mad at each other over stupid things. Our parents had a different way of raising kids than our aunt and uncle, so there was tension. In the morning, there were five kids competing for the bathroom to get ready for school.

We have moved six times in the past three years. Every time we get settled somewhere, we pack up and move again. After a certain amount of moving, you get tired of packing and unpacking. After a while, you just don't unpack anymore. Our belongings pretty much stay in a storage unit. Mostly, we have our clothes with us, and that's it. Our food often comes from St. Vincent's.

A typical teen has friends come over to hang out or to stay the night. I didn't want to have a friend come over because it was embarrassing that we didn't have our own house nor my own room. If I had my own space, I would like to decorate it the way I want to, with things that are special to me.

Homelessness can be invisible. You can't just look at someone and know. I just want you to know. Don't treat the homeless like they're nothing. We are families. We are trying to go to school.

Please appreciate what you've got because there are people who would love to be in your shoes. And, remember, even a couple of cents can make all the difference.

• Natalie Day is an 18-year-old student in the Juneau School District.

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