November 23, 2014
It is 9:56 p.m. I have slammed the door on my last chapter. I have set sail to the unknown. My eyes are too tear-filled to look back. I inhale fast and I cough; it's cold. It's really cold. Night has fallen and my steamy breath rises. I stomp my boots in the crunchy snow. I forgot my toothbrush. Snap. I wonder if they would let me back in. Forget it.
When does the bus come. Not soon enough. How do you read this stupid bus schedule. OK, the bus 7A is supposed to be here by 10:01. OK, so 3 minutes. My eyes droop down. There, I can hear it. The rumbling metal dragon slowly turning its body to an abrupt stop. Don't buses remind you of dragons? Maybe just me. The bottom of the dragon lowering down to meet my feet. I step on. It's almost empty. There is a, I think, middle-aged man sitting where the wheelchairs are supposed to go. The back looks empty. The dragon starts to move again. I race to sit down before I fall. As soon as I sit down I feel my eyes get dry and sandy. Must keep fighting, must not fall asleep.
I close my eyes. The drama intense hours before replay in my mind, the volcano of emotions finally erupting, the super angry call to my caseworker. She doesn't get me. I knew it was coming. I mean, not like this but I knew something was about to explode. And now my only other option is to live at a homeless shelter.
What is it called … something C … Covenant House Alaska. I've seen that dove around town. Some of the posters and signs. I've always been too afraid to go in. I'm kinda scared. Couple of my friends from Northstar went there. Maybe I'll see them there. The bus jolts. My eyes open. Then the computer announcer plays: "Now approaching Airport South Terminal."
Oh hey, 10:20 and 8ºF. I close my eyes again. Welcome to Downtown Transit Center. I was officially homeless.
APRIL 18, 2017
It has been almost two years since that night. That's a lot of years but not enough time to put the puzzle together. Some people think when they see a homeless kid that they just didn't follow the rules, but some of us are stuck in thinking we can't be it all, so we don't try to be it all. Yes, sometimes the guardians. The people that are there to take care of you encourage you to have dreams but if you don't have the resources, the time or just support in the situation that you are living in to follow some of those dreams, then why try. Why try to make something of yourself if failure means you lose the time that you could've used to prepare for your future? Your goal is not always to live independently, sometimes your goal is to get through the program standing with two feet planted firmly on the ground. That was my goal. I feel different now. I think that when you are exposed to some of the issues—not knowing how to start a resume or riding the bus to stay warm—you are really able to notice what the issues are. And I'm just now understanding having really walked through the fire. I talk more for the people rather than to the people.
I have never slept outside overnight. I have never been houseless. What qualifies me to tell you all about homelessness if I have never walked to stay warm at 3 a.m.? Because I have wondered if I will have a bed tomorrow or my mail will be sent to an address I know I can get to. I think being houseless and homeless are two different situations. I used to think of homelessness as not having a house, a roof over our heads, but not anymore. I think it's more than four walls and a door. I think it goes to the people you are surrounded with. Who builds you up.
So a couple of nights ago I woke up from this dream where I had a house, a car, a wife, two kids and a bed. Not just any bed though, this was a forever bed—a bed I knew would be there waiting for me the next night and the night after that. A bed that would not be snatched away. A bed that would keep my golden slumbers safe from unstable plans.
Jo Tandy was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was adopted into an Alaskan home around two months old. She has lived in Anchorage for around 19 years. Her passions include reading, writing, volunteering, art and photography. She hopes to get into college and lives at a transitional housing facility called Rights of Passage.
This article was originally published in The Youth Issue of 61°North Magazine. Contact the editor, Jamie Gonzales, at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments.