I didn’t consider myself homeless. My friends and I were hopping trains and bouncing from city to city. Without a care in the world we’d set up “camp” somewhere and just hang out. None of us had a family to get to, so we were free to go anywhere we wanted.
Nashville was a pretty cool city, so we decided to stay here for a while, sleeping down by the Cumberland River. We formed a tight group- looking out for each other, “busking” (playing music on the street for tips) and keeping each other safe.
One night I met some folks from a place called Oasis. They seemed pretty cool. Gave me a backpack with some clothes and a bus pass. There was a McDonald’s gift card in there. That was huge.
We decided we’d go down there and check it out. Free lunch. Free shower. Why not? It was a cool place so I went down there pretty regularly. They talked to me every now and then about living there, but I really wasn’t interested. I had everything I needed at home with “my family” on the street.
“Give the bed to someone who needs it,” I said.
That was a few months ago. Since then a couple of my friends moved away. Another moved into housing with some folks he met. So now I’m here alone. I’ve been sleeping by myself on the streets for a few weeks. Well, actually I haven’t really slept in a while. I’m too scared to sleep. I’ve heard stories of teenagers waking up with guns to their head when they sleep alone, so I try to stay awake.
This isn’t fun anymore. I don’t have any friends. I don’t have a home. I’m alone and I’m scared.
I’m trying to get a job. I have an interview tomorrow but I’m nervous. I really need it to go well…I want a better life.
The Rest of the Story
After visiting for several months, Josh came into the Outreach Center and said, “something needs to change”. He said he had a job interview and he wanted it to go well. We offered him an emergency bed so he could get a good night sleep, shower and have breakfast on his stomach before he went to the interview. He accepted. Josh stayed in that bed for several nights and this time when staff asked if he would be interested in living in our Transitional Living Program, he was!
He quickly moved into the Transitional Living Program and once he felt safe, he started opening up more about his past. He had a close relationship with his mother but she was a drug addict and often had parties at her house that made him uncomfortable. He started sleeping outside while the parties were going on and more and more he started being away from home and meeting other youth who were also avoiding something at home. These connections eventually led him to becoming a traveler and moving around the country.
We quickly came to realize that his resistance to moving into a safer, more stable place came from fear of not really being cared for or welcomed. Having been hurt and rejected before by his own mother, he was understandably reluctant to open himself up to strangers. To protect himself from more rejection and neglect Josh became super responsible for himself, even refusing to ask for help when he was exhausted or unsafe.
But at the Harwell Lofts, Josh found a place where he felt a sense of belonging. He finally found caring adults who believed in him and wanted him to succeed.
Josh quickly got not one, but two jobs and he started saving money to get his own place. We worked with him on life skills, job training, and provided counseling. After six months of living at the Loft, he felt ready to move into an apartment with a friend he made from work.
We’re excited to say that Josh remains employed and living in his apartment to this day.