Tara became homeless when her family lost their home this year. They moved in with another family, but there wasn’t enough room. Tara, the oldest of the children, moved out to be on her own. She had yet to finish high school, but found it almost impossible to stay focused on school and homework when she didn’t know where she would be sleeping every night. So she fell behind and eventually stopped going to school, figuring she would finish it another time.
To make ends meet, Tara occasionally sold sex for money or food, a survival tactic familiar to many homeless youth. An outreach worker learned about Tara through a school counselor and eventually found her on the streets. She started getting some case management support and was able to get into Avenues for Homeless Youth when we had a bed open.
Tara has been living at Avenues for three months now. She got back into school and is working with her case manager on her personal goals. She is 18 years old, trying to find a job, and thinks about going to college someday. Her case manager helped Tara secure benefits for which she was eligible and she is now on waiting lists for age-appropriate supportive housing. With some of her basic needs now being met, Tara is able to determine her own course of action in pursuing her goals.
Anthony spent the first 16 years of his life living with his mother, a crack addict, and his half sister, 18 years his senior. His father, who had moved to South Carolina when he was just 2, was not a part of his life. When his mother decided to move to Iowa, Anthony chose to live permanently with his older sister, determined to finish high school with his friends in Minneapolis, despite the constant bickering that occurred at home with his sister.
After one year, the stress and fighting at home proved too much to handle and Anthony decided to move out on his own. He continued to attend school and daily football practice, but began to fall behind on homework and never talked to any of his friends or teachers about his homelessness, for fear of being forced to move in with his mother in Iowa. He would sleep in strangers’ sheds and garages, in empty houses or new construction. With the onset of winter, sleeping in spaces without heat was no longer an option. He heard about Avenues for Homeless Youth from a friend and was able to secure a bed within a few weeks.
Anthony has been at Avenues for four months. He has managed to get all of his grades back to As and Bs and is performing very well in high school sports. His case manager is helping him explore housing options for his upcoming senior year and beyond. Anthony is also working on reconciling his relationship with his sister.
Serena’s 4-year homelessness journey began when her mother learned that she is a lesbian. A Wilder Foundation study published in October 2010 found that 8% of homeless youth in Minnesota cite lack of tolerance for their sexual orientation or gender as part of the cause or the main cause of their homelessness. Serena’s sexuality proved too difficult for her mother to understand or accept, and when she was just 16 years of age, she was kicked out and reported as a runaway.
Serena spent the next two years couch-hopping with friends. Staying in high school during this period hardly seemed a viable option with such uncertainty and lack of consistent lodging. After these two years of bouncing from school to school and couch to couch, Serena was running out of places to go. Her list of friends was dwindling and her stays were becoming increasingly less welcome.
The stress of these factors lessened when she learned of Avenues for Homeless Youth and secured stable lodging here. She worked closely with her case manager, participating in our life skills programming and putting together a plan for her near future. This past fall, Serena began studying in a GLBT-friendly alternative school. At 19, Serena chose to participate in our GLBT Host Homes Program. She is happy to have a place to call home and now plans to finish high school, begin working in the summer, and take some college credits in the fall.