Homeless youth carry heavy things that can’t fit into a backpack. They carry the loneliness of being ignored, the heartache of being abandoned, and the anxiety of having to fend for themselves. The Things They Carry is a four-part series about how The Salvation Army is helping homeless youth in the Twin Cities. You can help them too by becoming a bell ringer or giving online.
Megan lives at a Salvation Army youth housing facility in St. Paul.
After years of homelessness, she carries the burden of isolation.
Megan said the hardest part of being homeless is living completely alone, without a support system.
“You’re in survival mode all the time,” the 23-year-old explained. “What am I going to eat? Where am I going to sleep? How will I get to work?”
She grew up living in foster homes across the Twin Cities, including Anoka County, Ramsey County, and Minneapolis.
“I learned how to take tough love, and I learned how to cry less,” she said.
Megan landed in bad living situations, one after another, as a teenager and into her 20s. To escape, she’d run away and go “couch-hopping” at the homes of friends or family.
During her homeless spells, she said the most important thing she carried with her was her wits.
“It’s easy to lose your mind when you’re homeless,” she said. “Everything is a fight-or-flight atmosphere. Emotionally, it’s very challenging.”
Megan arrived at The Salvation Army’s youth housing facility in St. Paul, called Booth Brown House (pictured), just over two months ago. She is one of 25 youth ages 18-24 enrolled in the facility’s Permanent Supportive Housing program, which provides long-term housing and endless support from Salvation Army caseworkers.
“The best part of living here is to know that I’m not alone, that there are other people like me,” she said. “And it’s nice to know I have shelter – I don’t have to call 15 people to see if I can stay with them.”
Prior to arriving at Booth Brown House, Megan sometimes came to The Salvation Army for food, and occasionally she shopped for used clothes at Salvation Army Stores.
This time, Megan has come to The Salvation Army for help in getting off the streets and plotting a new course.
“I am ready to take control of my life,” she said. “I want to become a better person. The caseworkers here are teaching me to be responsible. I am learning how to balance things.”
She is getting good at applying what she’s learned. She landed a job recently, and she wants to get back into school.
Her ultimate goal?
“I want to be a homeowner,” Megan said. “The best part about this place is that it allows you to focus on what you want to do. When you’re homeless, you can’t do that.”
Poverty is an everyday battle and sometimes, people don’t win. But there is an army made of generous people like you dedicated to fighting to make sure everyone has a safe place to sleep. They’re in every town and every city, and you can join them in their fight for good by giving online or recruiting your own army as a fundraiser on FundraiseForGood.org, or becoming a volunteer bell ringer.
* Real name changed. Photo for illustrative purposes.