A letter from a teenager whose family is no longer homeless

The following letter was read at a recent Board meeting of our agency that helps homeless families. Breaking the cycle of homelessness for this family, reduces greatly the risk that homelessness will impact the children as adults.

Dear Board members,

My name is xxxx. I am 16 years old, in the 11th grade at yyyyy High School. I am writing this letter to thank you once again for all that you have done for my family, and helping us with a place to live. Over the past few years, I have been to 4 different high schools due to living with different people because of mother’s situation. I feel more secure now that my family is in a stable home. And, I can spend the next two years spending time with my mom & little brother before I graduate and go off into the Air Force. Thank you for making that happen for us.



Can you imagine trying to be a normal teenager, when you worry about a roof over your head and anguish over your and your mother’s situation? At the meeting I also shared a story about one of our homeless fathers. His son has graduated with a Master’s degree and is now teaching school. These kids can be afforded opportunity for success if we can help their family gain stability.

The reason I highlight these two stories is when I speak about helping our homeless family clients, it is not unusual for a few to be obstinate in their belief that the parents are just lazy or drug addicts. Even when I say our parents have jobs, sometimes more than one, and the propensity for drug use among homeless people has no greater propensity than that of housed people, that is discounted or not believed. But, the one thing I can get these more obstinate folks to agree with me on is the kids did not choose to be homeless, so let’s help them.

Let’s help the parents and their families. But, in so doing, let’s help the kids. Breaking the cycle of homelessness for the next generation also helps the community.


22 thoughts on “A letter from a teenager whose family is no longer homeless

  1. The kids are always suffering the most. However the situation was caused they did not generate them but they need to find a way to deal with something they cannot even understand. Those kids are the most appreciative and grateful when they finally find stability in life. And I guess they are those who work hardest for a good future!

    • Erika, to your point, we had a client whose family was living in a tent village before we helped them. The teen daughter was volunteering after school to help a food pantry collect, sort and donate food. Stating it more clearly, a homeless teen was donating her time to help the hungry, a most powerful example. Keith

  2. Excellent points, Keith. We have to keep working to help those in need. The cause of the situation, especially where children are concerned, is irrelevant. I hit that theme in my book. A lot of people just don’t stop and think about it. These children have no say in their environment.

      • Children who end up in juvenile detention usually come from the poorest and most troubled places of our society. People want to label them as “bad”, when so many of them have never had an example of anything else. Thanks for the article. They are important points.

      • Tanya, labels are too easy to use and abuse. Understanding the multiple causes takes effort. Thanks for your advocacy. Keith

  3. Note to Readers: About two months ago, I was speaking with a child psychologist who said the impact on a mother in homelessness has a pronounced impact on the children. Her ability to do more normative activities is compromised by the stress of losing one’s house and feeling down about not providing that shelter. It is compounded further if the mother is a domestic violence victim, which about 30% of our clients are.

  4. There are many realities out there that most of us have no idea about. Homelessness, poverty, economic hardships were never a part of my life. Thank you for highlighting other realities, and most especially for doing the hard work necessary to lift up others in need.

  5. What a beautiful letter from the 16-year-old … and what wonderful work your group is doing! It is so encouraging to see people helping people, giving them a hand up. Nobody chooses to be homeless, but sometimes through poor choices or circumstances beyond our control, it happens. We cannot simply turn our backs on people who need help! Hats off to you and your agency!

    • Jill, many thanks. The causes are many and often several at a time. Loss of one job, reduced hours, healthcare crisis, car crisis, domestic violence, etc. I agree we cannot turn our backs on people. Keith

  6. Dear Keith,

    You just know the 16 year old who was thoughtful enough to write that letter to you and your organization is going places in life. But how many more like him will fall through the cracks? I bet you could write a book on this subject. Thanks for what you are doing to stem the tide of hopelessness.

    Hugs, Gronda

    • Thanks Gronda. You are so right. For every child we save has an echo effect. Two years ago, the second place Intel Science Award winner was a homeless girl. If not helped, she could be denied the chance to help others. Keith

  7. Note to Readers: A few years ago, a community action group made two videos, one called “Souls of Our Neighbors.” During it, several speakers talked of how they had overcome obstacles of poverty to be successful, but they had help. Our former Secretary of Transportation and Mayor of Charlotte was one of those folks while others including bankers and other politicians.

    A minister of a large church who is known for its outreach had a wonderful quote, which I will paraphrase here. He said when you see these kids in poverty and homelessness, you must consider the untapped intellectual capital that they possess. If we can help them, we may be helping our community in a much larger way. Even, if we make them a productive tax paying citizen, then the money and time to help is well spent.

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