Youth and homelessness go together like cereal and milk. When you’re young, you don’t mind sleeping on a mat, you’ll do it just to prove how bad-ass you are. If you are homeless, it means that you are trying to make a point. I know when I was young that’s how it was for me. I would leave a shelter because I didn’t agree with the ethics of the place. It didn’t matter to me that I had nowhere to go to, making a point was more important than my safety. Now that I am older it seems that making a point is nowhere near as important as having a warm place to rest my head, I call it getting older.
I see young people out on the streets, literally sleeping in doorways and out in the open and I think to myself, “You can do that know, but wait until you hit your 30’s and things start to hurt.” I don’t even remember what the point I was trying to make most of the time was. I just know that I proved myself that no one else could see.
One of the reasons that we feel so bad as homeless people is because we believe that we wasted our youth. Often we either chased some ideals that we had, or were mired in the difficulties of mental health issues and drug addiction. We watched as others flew past us, doing the things that we wished we could do, but for some reason or other either could not and/or would not. We began cycles, some of the cycles would be fixed in a year, for others it would take about 20 years to fix. This is time that we learned valuable lessons, but it was also a time that we could not account for to the people whose opinions mattered, such as hiring managers and landlords. How do you account for the time you were trying to fix your life, how do you place that on a resume or school application? The only thing that you can do is try to explain and hope that the person on the receiving end is sympathetic. This lost time is what a lot of homeless people have to overcome, for some it’s their entire youth. How do you say at 40, I spent the last 20 years of my life on the streets and mentally unstable/addicted. This is why so many homeless people have trouble finding jobs and overcoming their instabilities.
Regret, one of the things that haunts us as homeless people. Back to that watching others fly by scenario. In watching others who led a supposedly ordinary life and went to college and got out by the time they were 22 or 23 and then went on to have stability, there is a jealousy and a resentment to those that were able to succeed where you were not. Once again, no credit is given to the lessons learned on the street and the pure wisdom that it took to stay alive. That regret, in my eyes is what keeps many homeless people from succeeding, they live in the past and can only think of all the mistakes that they made, they can see no accomplishments. Their self-esteem as such is trashed and beyond repair. They either refuse to take medication or seek treatment for their mental health or they keep using drugs to stop the hurt they are feeling. I know that this is the way that I was.
I can’t speak for all homeless people, some have had bad luck that has lasted many years and situations that are too difficult to mention, but I am speaking for the people that I have seen that have been homeless for many years of their lives. Many homeless people will only be homeless a short time in their lives and then never be homeless again. To those people I say kudos, you learned what was wrong, fixed it and moved on. For the rest of us who are living in a cycle, I say break the cycle, be brave, be courageous, try to mend the past or forget and forgive those who have harmed us. To those that are young, I say, try to solve your problems while you are still young and have energy to live your youth as you wish and enjoy the fact that your bones are not broken and you can still dance. As you get older, it only gets harder is what I have learned, live while you have the youth to enjoy yourself.