One persistent stigma surrounding homelessness is the idea that living on the streets results from laziness or a lack of motivation. But in reality, each situation is different – and blaming those in need simply leads to a lack of the resources that can help get people into housing.
Hope is a 20-year-old who experienced this lack of aid when she needed it the most. As a teen, she worked a part-time job and took online classes, aiming to graduate from high school early and move out of the house at 18. But her parents’ divorce left her bouncing between them and eventually sharing a single rented room with her mother. Reaching out to ask for help – from her parents, from schoolteachers, even from school counselors – proved fruitless. By age 17, Hope had moved in with a friend; and when a car repair she couldn’t afford left her without transportation, she headed to San Francisco, where she could live with another friend and use public transit to get around.
The first few months of living in Northern California passed smoothly, a glimmer of hope for a new life of stability – until she started noticing theft happening in her own home. She became scared to come home, waking up to find strangers sleeping in the living room, surrounded by drugs. Hope knew she had run out of options: “If I don’t leave now something worse is going to happen and I am going to be here when it does.”
To escape the dangerous situation, Hope found a temporary refuge with her then-boyfriend by moving in with him and his father, and then to a trailer park in Lake Elsinore. The rent was cheap, but her new living situation was far from safe – heavy crime was pervasive, with sex trafficking and prostitution taking place just down the street. “I didn’t want to get kidnapped or anything, so I would dress like a guy going out,” wearing baggy clothes and beanies to avoid drawing attention to herself.
One day, an argument with her boyfriend led Hope to call her father for help; when he didn’t pick up, she took a chance and gave her mother a call. Despite a year without any communication, her mother drove down to Lake Elsinore and told Hope she wouldn’t leave without her. But returning “home” failed to create a lasting change. Her mother’s struggles with drug addiction – which had contributed to Hope’s unstable housing in the past – still caused the same problems. She fell back into a pattern of staying with friends, a new boyfriend, and her father. A job as a caregiver provided housing for a time – but when Hope realized how drastically she was being underpaid and requested employee status under California law, she was fired and without a home once more.
After again exhausting all her resources, calling 211 numbers and waiting on the phone with women’s shelters for hours only to be turned down, Hope reached out to StandUp for Kids. She was met with not only a case manager to help her find housing and resources like new tires for her car, but with a community. Attending meetings full of people in similar situations who knew what she was going through, she didn’t feel alone anymore.
Moving on from an adolescence in which everything felt stacked against her, Hope is now looking forward. With a new job in retail and housing from StandUp for Kids through our rapid re-housing program, Hope is on a positive trajectory. “I just want a place for me and my cat to be and not have to move every month…Just normalcy.” Surrounded by her new community at StandUp for Kids and equipped with the resources she lacked before, there is plenty of hope for a brighter future.