Justice Issues

Hope for Teenage Homelessness

 

“Man can live about 40 days without food, about 3 days without water, about 8 minutes without air… but only for 1 second without hope.” – Hal Lindsey

 

A friend of mine once told me, “Sometimes I wish my parents would just get a divorce… it would probably be best for everyone.” About a month later, we sat with her on the cold kitchen tile as she wept, devastated because her mum had just filed for divorce.

The next few months were a blur of suitcases, lawyers, papers, tears, and immense change. She watched her family and home tear apart. Mum and dad in the same room would often result in screaming and broken frames. The fun, outgoing girl we once knew began to crumble. A person who would crack a joke at any given opportunity… remained silent. The stale scent of cigarette smoke replaced her favourite vanilla perfume. When she stayed with mum or dad they would complain to her and try to make her pick sides… so she started to stay with friends. A 14-year-old girl who, a month before had a home with two parents, a bed, and shower, was living out of a suitcase and running out of couches to crash on.

 

A house is not a home

Family breakdown is one of the most common reasons for homelessness. The destructive atmosphere of a house filled with hurtful words, fighting, and disrespect will never be a home; it will just be a house. So a child who may physically have a roof over their head could still be without a home. The child could be afraid to come home because they are unsure of when the next uproar will be. Therefore, they are forced to remain silent and unseen to try to avoid conflict.

Not every homeless teen is on the streets. When thinking about young people who are homeless, we often hear the term “Street Kids” and “Runaways” but this is not the reality. Most young people in a homeless situation are hidden from view and aren’t homeless by choice. Many stay with friends or relatives, in supported accommodation services or boarding houses.

 

“…never really loved or cared for…”

I had the great privilege of sitting down with a young girl who I met at a local recreation centre and hearing a bit of her story. She sat across from me, quietly sipping her coffee and dodging any type of eye contact. I saw a girl who had lived in darkness for so long and had experienced unbelievable pain. The people in her life had never really loved and cared for her. She shared stories of abuse and neglect in an almost unemotional, removed way. I assume because the abuse was so regular and routine. My heart broke as she began to share her story with me. I wanted to do more for her. I could buy her a coffee, love her, and speak truth into her life but I knew that God is the only one who could bring deep and transformational healing to her heart. There are so many stories of teens experiencing the loneliness and anxiety associated with family breakdown and homelessness.

 

 Every story matters

I used to stay with my mom… but she drinks. She used to scream and hit me, and throw things across the house. I got tired of it and went to stay with a friend… but I’m stuck right now because I feel like I’m a burden to her and her family… I don’t know where I’m going next.” – Taylor (California)

Sleeping on the street was much better than in that house with my mother.” – Taylor (Oregon)

When I turned 13, my mum found a new partner who lived at home with us. He raped me regularly and abused my younger sisters as well. For about a year, I suffered through it but when I was 14, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I said to mum, “You have to get rid of this guy; either he goes or I go.” Mum chose him and I landed on the streets.” – Anonymous (Western Australia)

 

There is always hope

Where broken relationships, anxiety, heartbreaks, and hopelessness exists, God remains faithful and promises hope. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11. 

The Resting Place is a ministry of Youth With A Mission Perth, that aims to be a vessel to allow God to work in the lives of these teenagers. To be a helping hand, and give them a chance to live life abundantly. The Resting Place will be more than a couch to crash on, we want to be a family. An empowering home, that loves, disciples, and encourages. We want to represent the Father’s love for them, and allow Him to shed light on these dark places. God is so able and eager to intervene and He called the Resting Place to be a part of that process here in Perth Australia.

 

Article by Lauren Austin (staff with YWAM Perth)