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Monday, November 05, 2007National Homeless Month
November is National Homeless Month. National statistics report the number of homeless kids at over 1.5 million. Over 500, 000 are under the age of 15 . Advocating for homeless teens is a cause very near and dear to my heart thanks to my parents. I've just applied for an internship as a street counselor working with homeless kids. God willing I’ll be able to help a kid out living on the streets because there but for the grace of the head cheese go I.
My parents started taking in homeless teens when I was very young and as far back as I can recall I’ve always shared my home and family with homeless kids. The rules my folks set down are simple; no drugs, go to school and my parents would provide you with a home and lots of love and lots of lectures if you muck up. Their methods work because every single kid that they’ve taken in has gone on to college and productive lives. Every. Single. One. The most amazing part of it all is that my parents did it with no financial help from any agency . None, zip, zilch, nada. My parents never wanted any of the kids to feel that they were a source of income to my family. How they made our middle class income stretch is beyond me but they did it. None of us ever wanted for anything most of all unconditional love.
Over the years I have lost track of how many kids my parents have taken in. The last of our kids left the nest a few months back. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve had my room to myself but I know it’ll be short lived. A new girl has been spending a lot of time in our house and I can sense what's coming. It seems at times there should be a revolving door at our entrance as soon as one moves out as an adult another kid comes to take their place. How they find my parents is a miracle in itself. It’s not like my parents go out looking for them it seems like they are put in each other's paths. One of the girls once told me that when she first saw mom she sensed a beautiful aura of shimmering gold and zircon blue around her when mom sat down next to her on a park bench to talk to her.I took that with a grain of salt because i'm still not too sure that the girl wasn't on drugs at the time. Whatever it was she sensed made her comfortable because even though the girl had been on the streets long enough to fear strangers she felt at ease with my mother. And when in the course of their conversation ma draped her arm over the girl's shoulder the girl felt as if an angel had wrapped its wings around her. Again I say take that statement with a grain of salt because i'm not too sure the girl wasn't high as a kite when mom found her.
Another kid told me that after talking to my mom on the subway late one night he felt a warmth creep into his heart. Something he had never felt in his entire life much less the year he'd been living on the streets. Despite himself and unknown to ma he followed her home that night wanting to make sure she got home safe. He then hung around the neighborhood for a few days sleeping in door ways and the park down the block hoping to see my mother again. After a few days my dad noticed him hanging around and brought him upstairs to eat. He stayed with us for two years. He is now a police officer. I'd often wake up in the middle of the night to find mom in the living room cradling one of the kids in her arms rocking them back and forth as they cried. She'd shower the top of their heads with kisses while my dad stood besides them rubbing the kid's back telling them they were safe now and that he’d never let them go back to the streets. Just thinking about the degradation these kids suffered tears at my heart; eating out of trash cans , selling their bodies just to survive. Fear and loneliness were their constant companions . They came with scars both visible and invisible and my parents tried healed them all.
Some of the stories have been sadder than than others . The boy that followed mom home from the subway was drop dead gorgeous a dead ringer for Johnny Depp. When he came to us he’d been he'd been raped and was turning tricks out on the pier in Hells Kitchen just for food money. One girl all of 16 was kicked out by her mother because she didn’t get along with her mom’s new man. The mother thought she could survive on her own with her part time job at Mickey D’s. She ended up staying with a friend paying a little money for a spot to sleep on the floor but the friend’s father thought she should be paying him in other ways if you get my drift. Refusing his demands she ended up on the street sleeping in doorways. She had been a childhood friend of my uncle's and when he found out about her situation from a mutual friend he went looking for her one snowy night and brought her to our house. He promised her that we’d keep her safe . She was scared, she didn't say much and looked like a human q-tip, severely under weight she’d been surviving on one meal per day for months because it was all she could afford. At the time our apartment was filled to capacity. I was already sharing my room with a couple of girls and my brothers were sharing their rooms with a couple of boys. My parents couldn’t afford another mouth to feed, another body to clothe.
My mom was put in touch with a local teen homeless shelter by a social worker friend of hers. It was agreed that the girl would spend the weekend with us and on Monday my dad would take her to the shelter when he got home from work. Due to the lack of parking my mom stayed in the car while my father went into the shelter with the girl. Whatever it was he saw in there deeply disturbed him . When he came out he had tears in his eyes. “Mags I don’t feel comfortable leaving her there. That’s no place for her. Kids are sleeping on benches and on the floor. ” She looked up at my dad and said, “ Fuck it what’s more one anyway, we’ll manage somehow.” and ran inside and got the girl. Under my parent’s care the scared teen became a confident woman and years later married my uncle the very same one who had found her sleeping in a door way on a cold January night. She now works at a local homeless shelter as a case manager. Recently over dinner told my mom she and my uncle had taken in a homeless kid, “ I’m paying it forward Mags. ” My mother started to cry when she realized what the woman meant by paying it forward and smiling between her tears said, “Aw fuck now you’ve made me cry.”
Link:StandUp For Kids
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