I hadn’t fully experienced life until I woke up one morning on two rocks and a wooden plank outside of a church. I’d found myself homeless on the streets of Wheaton, Illinois.
In fall of 2016, I was living on my own, paycheck-to-paycheck, like most 19-year-olds. My rent was due, and then, I lost my job. I wasn’t even close to making the bill.
I had to move out.
I started brainstorming tactics to survive, and hopefully, get back to some level of stability. I got a three-month gym membership, so I could shower and store my clothes in a locker. It’s a 24-hour gym, which meant I could stay there when October nights got too cold. I’d moved to the suburbs from the city, with a plan to attend the local junior college. I couldn’t afford classes, but I registered, knowing it was another place I could rest during my downtimes. In the first week of my new survival mission, I acquired another job working in a shopping plaza. I hung out in local fast-food places and in nearby stores. I was trying to save money, but it was tough. Living outside doesn’t come with a kitchen. My main food option was fast-food. I looked up and a month had passed. I’d saved little and was exhausted from lack of sleep. I’m always making backup plans, but I was losing hope.
One morning, I stopped in a hair salon in the plaza where I worked. It was almost Halloween and I asked the lady in the store about the clown wig in the window. The lady was really polite and never questioned why a young black man was in her hair salon. (My hair was almost bald to the scalp at the time.) She sat me down and asked me questions. She figured something wasn’t right. She got me to admit I was homeless. We became close over the course of a few weeks. I looked up and had my own room. For a short while, I practically lived in the back of her hair salon. For some reason, it felt like home. All the other women in the salon became like family. With lots of help, I got back on my feet.
I learned many valuable lessons. Now, I understand receiving help is normal and hiding your struggles only closes down potential opportunities. Today, I am attending school. When I graduate, I’ll have a trade that means I accomplished my mission, making a stable future for myself. Someday, I might like to be a counselor and mentor. I know the feeling of hopelessness. In my amazing twenty-one years of life, I’ve grown to understand that helping others with challenges in their life can make a difference.