Siblings in the Lives of Youth Experiencing Homelessness
Many children and youth go through the experience of homelessness with siblings. Depending on birth order and family dynamics, siblings can be a source of support and strength, pain and trauma, or both. Two SchoolHouse Connection Scholars, Aseret and Danny, recently wrote about living with siblings while experiencing homelessness. While their sibling relationships have some similarities, there are also stark differences, including that Danny was one of the youngest in his family, while Aseret was the oldest. When working with children or youth who are experiencing homelessness, it is important to remember that even if the child or youth is currently unaccompanied, there are often siblings in their lives who play important roles, and who also may need assistance.
Written by Danny, 2018 SchoolHouse Connection Scholar
I am the second youngest of 7 children and growing up, my siblings and I relied heavily on each other to navigate the challenges we faced. Though we ended up being split apart at a young age, we managed to survive, and to this day I would not be who I am if it wasn’t for them. This is my story.
During much simpler times when we got to live together, having 7 children in one place, made for one crazy household. Being a low-income family, we never got to live in a nice big house that could fit us all. Instead, we shared a small three-bedroom apartment where the three boys shared a room and the three girls shared a room, and as you can imagine, that caused a lot of bickering and arguments. With my dad out of the picture, my mother was under a lot of stress trying to raise and support a family of seven. On top of that, by the time my oldest sister was only sixteen she had two babies, a boy and a girl. At such a young age, my sister was not ready to financially support her two children, so that responsibility fell onto my mother. Ultimately, my mother ended up supporting a family of nine on her own.
My mother worked all day, so I hardly have any childhood memories of her. With such a big family, we were there for each other when our mother was out at work. We would help each other get up in the morning, get to the school bus stop, get home from school, and get food. Inevitably we were still siblings, so there was normal drama and we would fight, but at the end of the day we supported each other. Looking back on those times now I am very grateful for every interaction I had with my siblings.
Through thick and thin my siblings were people I could go to for advice and I was always able to talk to them when I was struggling.
My life changed when I was thirteen years old. This was the year that my mother moved away from Washington and I had to move into a friend’s house. This was hard to get used to and things were really different not being with my family; however, after a year, one of my sisters ended up moving in with me as well. Even just having one sibling to share those experiences and emotions with was very helpful. The next four years were not easy, but ultimately, through it all, I was able to graduate from high school. I also became the first in my family to go to a university and the first boy in my family to even graduate high school. I was very nervous and intimidated by the idea of higher education, but my siblings encouraged me and continued to push me towards my goals.
Through thick and thin my siblings were people I could go to for advice and I was always able to talk to them when I was struggling. I believe our super crowded household in my elementary years is what forged this incredible bond that will never be severed. Even though I experienced a lot of self-doubts and insecurities, the support my siblings gave me helped me to move past them and ultimately be successful.
When we were apart, even though none of my siblings were able to be by my side to help me, we were constantly giving each other encouraging words. Hearing them tell me that I need to be the one to make it to college and get a degree to pursue a well-paying career in order to change things for my future family really resonated with me. They built up my confidence in myself and pushed me to go above and beyond all the expectations that I had for myself. Even while in college, I still remind myself of their words and their belief in me to accomplish my goals. They even support me during breaks when I need temporary housing. At the end of the day, I know I can count on them and that I will always have them by my side.
Reflecting back, I know it was not an easy task for my siblings to support and care for me to the extent they did. I see the sacrifices that they made in their own lives and how at times, they were being my caretaker when they didn’t even have one for themselves. I could not be more thankful to have them in my life and I attribute my success to the love and care they provided me. I know that I am not the only one who has had older siblings to look after them. There are numerous people who have gone through similar experiences. So all in all, this is a thank you not just to my siblings, but to siblings everywhere who sacrifice and support each other despite all odds.