When our Marketing Consultant asked if I wanted to blog on the Huffington Post, my immediate response was no -- I'm a do-er, not a blogger. Then I thought, this would be good for our homeless students, those without a voice. It will make people aware of just how many kids are homeless and how many obstacles they have to overcome just to get an education.
So I wrote a couple of blogs and I asked one of my team members to write one (nice job, Linda). Then I thought, why not let our students' voices be heard. Let them tell their stories - they can do it much better than I can. So I plan to raise issues about education and homeless students in this blog, but I also plan to let our students' and sometimes their parents' voices be heard.
Angela Sanchez, who is finishing her freshman year at UCLA, knows all about education and even more about homelessness. Check out her voice at ioucla.org. Here she writes about being evicted from her home. Angela will continue her story in ongoing blogs.
I don't think anyone ever goes through life expecting to be homeless. Honestly, getting evicted was a shock. Even when I was packing all my possessions into box after box, it didn't seem real to me. It was a surreal experience, like I was dying, like I was storing away all these belongings for some pharaoh's afterlife or for someone who had passed away, for anyone other than myself. I won't forget that hectic month. I would walk home from school almost every day. I'd try to memorize every crack in the concrete, the little dog prints by the bridge pavement, the L.A. river I'd cross, the hideous tonka-toy construct next to my friend Edward's apartment, even the short-lived dandelions were not missed. I had to remember it all; all six corners of my room, each hue in the old, gnarled tree and cerulean sky my window looked out to, the varying ridges of the mountains and townhouses as well. When this was finished, memories would be all I could claim of Milford.
I remember my face leaking salt when I thought about how I'd never get to walk home with Edward again just to shoot the breeze. I'd never have the muse of my window view to inspire a drawing. The glow-in-the-dark stars and handmade mobile with fifty-four delicate beads were as good as gone. So every day, piece by piece, I packed away possessions for a dying girl. But I knew it wasn't just about me; there were Dad's feelings, too. His antiquated collection would be willed to wind. Whatever wasn't hawked was given to someone whom we hoped could appreciate it. And, saddest still, what wasn't given away was curbed.
After I'd missed a couple of days in fifth period English, my teacher cornered me after class. "What's going on?" she asked, her bright green eyes serious with worry. In the face of that genuine concern I had to bite my tongue. "We're getting..." I began, but my voice trailed. I had absolutely nothing to cry about, I had only facts to state. "We're packing..." I choked and blinked furiously. Then she had to go and place her hand on my shoulder. I sniffled. But still, I take pride that I commanded myself back, looked her in the eyes and said, without my voice quaking too much, that my family was getting evicted. "Just the facts," as Sgt. Joe Friday would say.
I remember pacing the short fifteen feet from the television to the end of the dining area, declaring that so long as this was my home I would not forget any sensation of it. I would forget nothing.
Then came our last night.
At two in the morning, I fell asleep in the master bedroom, my father sitting in the old swivel chair at the edge. Both of us hoping dawn would never come. It came. And much to our surprise there was no one pounding at the door, screaming to get out. Had they forgotten? Would we die another day? I'd woken up at six just to make sure I would be ready. Lavender circles ringed my eyes and I had trouble placing one foot in front of the other. My head hurt, my neck was stiff. But if we had to leave I had to be alert enough to go at the drop of a dime. At one in the afternoon, my adrenaline gave out. I lay down on the bed to close my eyes for a bit. The slamming of a fist on the door made my eyes snap open wide and I found a damp spot of drool where I'd had my mouth. The clock read one-fifteen. The pounding sounded louder. My father opened the door to two police officers. "What are you still doing here?" the first cop asked. I wanted to say we live here, but, according to the paper with the bright red print in his hand, we didn't.
"Sir, you have to leave," one officer said as politely as possible.
"Sure, just a sec," Dad panted, running back to the bedroom to grab the phone.
"Now," the policeman insisted, trying to squeeze past me. "Excuse me, ma'am."
Ma'am? I wanted to echo incredulously. Ma'am? I'm only sixteen! I'm not even legal yet. I can't even vote to change the stupid law that says I have to leave the only home I've known! Ma'am?
In less than a minute, we didn't belong anywhere. Our locks changed right there, we were tossed out into the world. The sunny California November sure felt a lot colder.
There are over 290,000 homeless children in California. Over 25,000 homeless youth are enrolled in LA County Schools; 12,461 in LAUSD alone. (Los Angeles Coalition to end Hunger and Homelessness www.lacehh.org and www.LAUSD.net).