By Destiny Dickerson, SHC Scholar, majoring in Psychology in San Diego State University.
“People of no fixed address.” “Without a home.” This is the definition of homelessness available upon googling the term “homeless.”
However, people’s connotations of homelessness are different. Eating out of trash cans. Living in tents. One part of the spectrum that is homelessness. But simply because a person does not sleep on a park bench does not invalidate their homeless status.
As a homeless individual, using the word in itself is a hard task. No one wants the
I didn’t officially start considering myself as homeless and being confident in saying it until after I was awarded the SchoolHouse Connection Scholarship for youth who had experienced or were experiencing homelessness while in high school. When I received the scholarship, I met people like me, going through similar situations and who were feeling the same pains as I was. When I returned from the award ceremony in Austin, TX, I felt so validated. It was my senior year of high school. I had been homeless since freshman year. When my school found out about my situation, it paid for textbook fees, yearbook, prom, and helped out in any way it could. But not everyone was excited to help me.
My immediate family of six were the ones who suffered along with me– and
This angered me.
Why should I change my story for those who had never been through what I had? Who had never had to sleep on the floor and use their backpack as a pillow, worried that bugs were crawling on you… Who had never sat outside for hours, or in restaurants, trying to get wifi to find a place to stay at night… Who had never skipped a meal, not for laziness or forgetfulness, but because your family of six slept in a room with one bed with no fridge, no microwave, and no money to buy fast food… Who had never needed to pack up their clothes in trash bags to move every Friday, and occasionally a Monday, because motel rates would rise? When people have experienced these things and still can make statements questioning the use of the word “homeless” with a straight face, then–and only then–would I consider ceasing to call myself homeless.
Homelessness isn’t some distant phenomenon that you see visibly only on the streets of Los Angeles or New York. Homeless people are everywhere. I went to a rich school in an affluent area, but I was still homeless. I did not sleep in a tent, or on a park bench, but I was still homeless.
There are many students and people who are living just like me and deserve to be validated in their homeless status. We have already lost so much. We deserve to be recognized.
On July 24, 2018, the House Financial Services Committee passed the bipartisan Homeless Children and Youth Act, H.R. 1511. The legislation, co-sponsored by Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA), may now be considered by the full House of Representatives. A bipartisan Senate companion bill, S. 611, is led by US Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rob Portman (R-OH).
Take Action to Advance the Homeless Children and Youth Act!
Soon, Congress will break for August recess. This is a critical time to meet with Members while they are back home in your district and state.
- Urge your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators to co-sponsor the legislation.
- A list of current House co-sponsors may be found here, and a list of current Senate co-sponsors may be found here.
- Sample letters may be found here.