Circumstance is a funny thing. Most people believe that they will win the lottery or become a famous actor before they could become homeless. Seriously, no one thinks it will be them. The moment that images of bridges and tunnels crawled into my mind was when my mother told me not to worry about the lease not getting renewed. “I’m the adult, don’t worry about it,” she said in a snappy defensive tone, but I could tell that she was scared. Seventeen-year-old me didn’t have a full comprehension of homeless life, but I knew uncertainty.
We rented a storage unit and I was to stay with a family that I had known for over ten years. My mom and brother stayed in our beat down Nissan.
I started my senior year of high school while living with my friend’s family and for a while I felt like an extension. But every night before I gave way to unconsciousness, I relented for my mom and brother, trying not to think of them shivering in the car. The main reason why I kept my situation secret is because people change when they know that you are in need. I didn’t want my friends to condemn or pity me like my extended family did. Mother tried to reach out to them, but they said they had no room, which I knew was a lie. What hurt the most was the fact that people who signed and cosigned my birthday cards all my life and told me how proud they were of me never helped me when I needed it. This has driven a wedge between me and my family that still remains to this day.
Over the next six months, I would collect little by little, from every word and look that would tell me that I was a burden, an intruder. Once I stayed out a little too late working on a school project and had to wake the mother to let me in the house. I apologized profusely but it wasn’t enough for the youngest sister. She confronted me the next day, screaming that I wasn’t even trying to move out of their house while still in high school. I’ve known her since she was three years old; she was like a sister to me and the hatred in her eyes still burn. I learned an important lesson that day. Once you take charity from someone, they purchase you in a sense. You owe them something, so some will buy their right to call you a leech just because you don’t have a parent’s house to live in like they do. That feeling of guilt never leaves you after it has been pounded in your head. Unfortunately I was too much of a burden to them and was told I couldn’t live there anymore and now I had to figure out where to sleep day by day.
At school I started to crack and told my counselors and a couple of friends. My guidance counselor gave me a suggestion that didn’t subject me to fear, a piece of paper that had a black and white image of Lincoln Place at the top with three phone numbers below. Within a month, I had my own lease and nobody to worry about but me. That April in 2010 moved in a blur past me but what I do remember is staff from The Link speaking to me with looks that told me that they believed in me. I knew that they expected great things from me that I had almost given up simply because I didn’t have a home.
The next two months were some of the happiest and transformative in my life.
I got my own apartment, my safe place to succeed and fail on my accord.
Prom, Senior Party and Graduation followed after in a happy train of events. But where Lincoln Place has really come through for me, is giving me an opportunity to attend college and provided irreplaceable support these past five years. I have faced hunger, abusive relationships, and setbacks in school, mental and physical illness. I won’t lie, these challenges have forced me to question the very merit of living at all, but my case manager at Lincoln Place and so many others have reminded me of what I’m capable of through all of the panic attacks, tears and graphic descriptions of my personal life.
I’m fully convinced that The Link and its people have saved my life too many times to count and I thank God that He has brought it into my life. The efforts and resilience have not been wasted; I have recently graduated from Normandale College with an Associate of Liberal Arts and an Associate of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with immediate plans of volunteering and internship work within The Link. If I did not have the support system at Lincoln Place, I wouldn’t have the relationships with my friends and professors. I wouldn’t have met my boyfriend who deserves a separate speech for he does in my life.
All of this possibility can be traced back to Lincoln Place and the people in the Link.
I love what you do and I’m so happy that I can make you continue to make you all proud, thank you so much.