My name’s Lachelle. I’m 14 years old and have been living in a homeless shelter in New York City for the last two and half years with my mom, 12-year-old brother, and 10-year-old sister. We used to live in a nice apartment, but when my mom got laid off from her job, then got hit by a car a few weeks later (breaking her pelvic bone in two places), and then was diagnosed with cancer, things got really hard. Bills piled up until we couldn’t pay our rent anymore, and so we had to stay with my uncle for a while. But when he left to join the Air Force, the landlord immediately kicked us out. We had nowhere else to go, and ended up in a homeless shelter.
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Our first night there, we were all too shocked and sad to even talk to each other. We just laid on our beds in silence. It was really scary, and when we had to use the common bathroom, my sister and I quickly learned go together to protect each other. We did eventually did get moved to a room with its own bathroom and a kitchenette, where we’ve now been for more than two years. But it’s not the kind of life that any kid would choose to have.
The shelter has a lot of people using drugs and alcohol, and when I come home from school every day I have to walk past a bunch of men hanging out near the front door who shout things that make me really uncomfortable. For a while, one grown man was stalking me, until my mom was able to get him thrown in jail. It’s also impossible to keep anything nice in the shelter. The ring my grandmother gave me for my 5th grade graduation was stolen, as was my brother’s favorite football jersey. Recently, he also got mugged and beaten on his way back to the shelter from school, and is still in the hospital.
I try to live a normal life though. I volunteer to help senior citizens after school, and my brother and sister and I all do extracurricular activities on Saturdays. But I can never have friends over, since I’m afraid to let anyone know I live in a shelter. Some kids at school think shelters are just for drug addicts or bad people, but they’re not - they’re full of kids just like me. In fact, there are now more than 20,000 kids like me in NYC shelters. That’s crazy. It was never like this before, and it’s only like this now because of bad city policies that took away any chance for families to move from shelter into permanent housing.
We need this to change. A shelter is not a home. Please sign this petition to help me - and 20,000 other kids in NYC - have the safety and stability of a real home.
Want to help Lachelle and other kids stuck in shelters get a real home? SIGN this petition. GO