Having a place to call home is one of the most important things in a person’s life, especially during their formative years. It is where all of your memories are created. Depending on where you live you can have a world of adventure at your fingertips, riding bikes, climbing trees or random scavenger hunts in the nearby woods. These experiences turn a house into a home and your neighbors into family.
Unfortunately, in Ward 8 there is an overwhelming segment of the population that does not have a place to call their own. According to data compiled by D.C. Action for Children, a nonprofit organization, 48 percent of children live below poverty level.
When I was first assigned to cover child homelessness in D.C. I was eager because I know what it feels like to be unsure of your next home. During my junior year of high school, my mother lost her job. We moved from the house I called home for the last 10 years to a medium-sized apartment in Central Islip, NY.
At first, I did not mind. I wanted to move anyway and have a change of scenery, but soon it became what seemed like a never-ending tale of moving boxes into a new, smaller apartment. Although I could have easily left and moved in with my father or one of my aunts, I felt like that would make the situation real.
I was ashamed to tell people what was going on, after all, I was in private school and did not show any outwards signs of “poverty,” I did not want people to label me as poor or treat me differently. Only my best friend knew the real reason why I was moving, everyone else just thought we liked to move a lot. My friends had a running joke about where my next apartment would and how long I would stay.
From December 2005 until the end of May 2007, we moved about fivetimes, finally moving in with my stepfather’s mother in Brooklyn. I finally felt relieved, I had a room to call my own again and an address to send mail, but I never got over that nagging feeling of keeping everything close in case we had to go again.
It was not until my first year of college that I let go of all the anxiety. I had a permanent place to stay, if even for one school year I could unpack my boxes and breath.