Every young homeless person has a unique story. Among the common threads of abuse, neglect and pain are inspiring glimmers of hope, strength and determination.
These stories are in youths’ own words. The pictures are representative of our youth. They are not the actual people who wrote the stories.
My name is Dion Austin and I’m 18 years old. Never would I have thought that I would be a homeless teen. I was 17, on the streets, sleeping in parks, washing up and brushing my teeth in public restrooms, doing absolutely everything I could to survive. I thought everyday, ” When will it be my time to go? When will God take me away?” I finally decided to go to the police about everything. They told me about Tumbleweed’s “Safe Place”. There were no QT’s around so I called them and said I needed a safe place. Next thing I knew, I’m in a taxi on my way to Open Hands, a Safe Place. That taxi ride led me on the path to success. Because of Safe Place I’m off the street, out of public bathrooms, eating every day. Safe Place saved my life.
“Aged Out” clients story
At eighteen I aged out of my group home and went straight into being homeless. That is when I started cutting. Cutters don’t enjoy pain; we cut to escape the pain.
Every Friday night Tumbleweed’s outreach team would come to the shelter and offer us food, clothing and hygiene. They talked about the drop-in center and other resources where we might get help. One night, one of the women on the outreach team pulled me aside and gave me some rubber bands.
She told me to put them around my wrist and snap them when I had the urge to cut, “it’s safer.” I was surprised she had noticed the cuts, but even more amazed there was no judgment or attitude. I decided to try the center.
At first, I sat at a table and worked on art projects with a volunteer named Diane. The staff talked to me, and showed interest in whatever I was working on. They recognized early on that I wasn’t eating at the center, I was depressed. That’s when Diane, the case manager, started sitting down with me at lunch. She was really cool, and funny. It took a couple of weeks before I actually ate something and another couple weeks before I signed up for case management.
Diane and I worked together on a case plan. She never told me what to do; she got me to figure out what would work best for me. She helped me get behavioral health and found housing for me. His allowed me to return to high school and finish my last year. This fall I will attend Phoenix College on a grant. I no longer cut, and the best part is I no longer need to.
My name is Isaiah. When My Mom found out I was gay, she became furious and threw me out. After that, none of my family would really talk to me. Depressed and lost, I spent the next few months in strangers’ homes and on friends’ couches. Having a job helped but having no home, my work would not chance me with a set schedule. Most of my time when I was not at work was spent getting drunk and sleeping my life away.
Finally, my friend referred me to Tumbleweed, where I met Debbie and Erika. At first, it was hard to open up. This did not stop me from telling them how horrible my life had gotten seemingly overnight. When I left my interview, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
During the first month it was a little awkward getting to trust Erika and Debbie. However, attending my case management meetings and following through on the guidance my case manager would give me really helped. Erika and Debbie continued to help me with my problems, and there are many. My life has had a dramatic change since then. I am so very grateful to them both. Now I’m getting into the nursing school of my choice and all the while working on my independent living skills, so one day my hard work can lead into becoming a fully functional adult. Going to Tumbleweed was the best decision of my life. I would like to extend my personal gratitude to all involved.