The Face of Homelessness

Sharel is 14 and arrived at Trevor’s 4 months ago. She has spent a year and a half in shelters.  While most teenagers are thinking about things like going to the mall or dating, Sharel is looking for answers to questions: When can I see my older sister? When will I have my own home? For her, the simple joys of life, basic life-building blocks like friendships, are nearly impossible to experience.

Sharel is a tough, composed, mature 14-year-old girl, yet all girlish silliness seems absent.  Her sober demeanor, verging on sadness, is a product of crushing realities. She takes care of 3 younger sisters. Though she regrets not having her own home, she is making an effort. “It is better at Trevor’s. I like the staff. I don’t’ get into fights like I used to and I am doing good in school.” Since arriving at Trevor’s she has volunteered to be a youth peer mentor to younger children participating in our after-school program. She spends 2-3 hours each day helping children with homework and coordinating play activities. “I like playing with the kids and I like helping.”

The effects of homelessness were taking a toll on Sharel’s education. “Last year I didn’t like school, but this year I am doing much better. Last year I was getting F’s and this year I am getting A’s and B’s, but mostly A’s.” She dreams of being a nurse or even a doctor one day. Sharel is doing so well in school she is eligible to move from 8th to 9th grade in February.  This has all happened in the short amount of time that she has been at Trevor’s Place.

With a smile that shines for miles, Starkisha is a seemingly easy-going, thoughtful, happy 9-year-old girl. But there is a sadness about her that goes well beyond her 9 years. One thing occupies her mind: a home of her own where she can invite friends over and live the ordinary life of a child.

Starkisha is one of 10 children. She has spent the majority of her years bouncing from shelter to shelter.  She and her younger brother, Quielle, have been at Trevor’s for 9 months.  She has come a long way since arriving: “I was shy when I first got to Trevor’s, but I feel more comfortable now. The best thing I like about Trevor’s are the people that work there. They are friendly.”

What does Starkisha want most: “I want to get my own house.” What makes her sad: “Not having my own house.” At an age when most girls are care-free, Starkisha worries about her mother and realizes how hard she is trying: “I love my mom. If I could give her anything I would give her own home and a ring and some clothes.”

Starkisha, like many of Trevor’s children, is an exceptional child who has faced crises and disappointments most children never confront. She has done so quietly and without bitterness.  Her remarkable attitude reminds our staff that giving attention to those who feel small and forgotten is as important as giving food and shelter.