The story of no home


Manuel Ramos (created with Canva)

These images have a whole different meaning to me. Meat was considered a luxury food and if we every had some, it would only be a piece or two. Cereal was all I ate for most of the day and benches would often times be my bed. Although we would sometimes sleep at parks, we had a van that I would considered to be a home.

By Manuel Ramos, Middle College High School

You walk around them when you see them, you get scared whenever they walk by you, you think about them as if they were less of a human than you, and once you give them that title, they become as insignificant as the rocks on the ground.

Just who am I talking about, you may ask?

I’m talking about people who are experiencing homelessness. As a person who knows exactly what they are going through, the numerous misconceptions on homeless people honestly breaks my heart . Allow me to open your eyes to the reality of homelessness and all the things that can happen to someone who experiences such events. Allow me to share my and my family’s experience with you and let me show just how much these events have affected me psychologically. 

Let me ask you something. When is the last time you have experienced true hunger? I’m talking about the type of hunger where you have to go days without eating because you don’t have access to food. Well if you know how this feels, you know that it is such an unpleasant and demoralizing experience. Or have you ever got done with a hard day of school and thought to yourself, “I can’t wait to go home and relax.” Then you realize that you don’t have a “home” to go to. These are some of the many things that I thought about or went through when I was experiencing homelessness.

Why don’t we talk about how many people who experience homelessness are people who were just unlucky? Like my family for example.  My father was the main source of income, and he was injured due to an accidental acid spill by a co-worker, causing him serious injuries to his left shoulder and his leg. Once the case went to court, they stated that he is not allowed to work and was given disability. We waited and waited for the court to give us the financial aid we needed to survive, but there seemed to be way too many problems with the court that we never got the money we so desperately needed. Next thing you know a father, mother, 11 year-old, 8 year-old and a 5 year-old were out living in a van with little to no money. Since my mother was not a resident of the U.S. at the time, she could not work in place of my father and my older siblings were dealing with problems of their own. 

Water was not that hard to come by; we would go to parks and use the drinking fountains there to get something to drink. Having access to food was the issue. As time went by, food became scarce and there were times when I didn’t know when I was going to be able to eat. I would have to rely on school food to get me full, but most of the time I felt like throwing up because I wasn’t used to having that much food in my body.

I wasn’t the only one worried about not being able to eat.

My little brother, who is now 15, was eight years old when this all happened.

He stated, “One of the hardest things I was thinking about was ‘Am I going to be able to eat today.’”

As food became more and more scarce, I began giving my food to my younger siblings because I knew that they were too picky to eat at school. As I gave up my food, I saw myself stuck eating a lot more school lunches. Quite frankly, it wasn’t the healthiest. I grew sick of school food and I could no longer eat it and since I gave up most of my food, I was left with little to nothing to eat. My weight quickly decreased and so did my appetite. Consequently, I have developed a habit that I will eat anything I can because I am too scared of the fact that what I just ate could be my last meal for a while.

Events like this can really mess with one’s psychology and will have different effects on people of different ages.

My younger brother was asked how he was able to sustain himself mentally while we were homeless.

He said, “Nothing, I just didn’t think about it.”

My sister, now 13, who was five years old at the time, was asked the same question.

She said,  “I’d try not to think about the things that could have happened to us, like us getting killed at the park.”

As you can see, fear was a constant at night since that was when we were most vulnerable. 

As an older brother, seeing your younger siblings in this situation is extremely painful. Yet I buried those feelings deep down so that they wouldn’t see me in pain. I kept my smile so they wouldn’t fear and I was glad to hear that it was some sort of help. Having to experience such events at a young age opened my eyes to reality. 

Struggling is something that everyone goes through and all struggle is different from person to person.

Some struggle with slow wifi, while others struggle finding meals.

So be mindful when you see someone sleeping on the sidewalk or someone fumbling through trash looking for bottles to make some change.

I hope that my particular story was able to open your mind to think of what a person had to go through to get where they are.

Sure there are some that live a life of homelessness because of drugs, but there are many like me that were forced to become homeless. I was one of the lucky ones that are able to get out of homelessness.

But many are not as fortunate.

This story was originally published on The Spellbinder on March 11, 2022.