I went to seven schools in Atlanta, lived in three hotels, a couple of houses, and trailers. Everywhere we lived we have been evicted from because my mom couldn’t keep a job. She started to drink a lot and that was the first time we got evicted. She was just pretending to go to work every day.
There were three houses we lived in that either didn’t have lights or water. I remember taking showers at the neighbor’s house. We had somewhere to go, but it wasn’t always the best place to be at. It was very difficult. I remember she used to send us to school so we could eat every day. We made sure we got up and caught the bus early enough to go eat breakfast at school. It stayed like that for a long time.
I used to stay with one of my really good friends, Haley, and her Nana after that. They had a room for me over there. When my mom got evicted we didn’t have anywhere to go so Nana basically let me live over throughout school. My mom was living with one of her friends. So, whenever she started hanging out with them, they did drugs and meth, drank a lot, and started partying. My sister lived with her boyfriend and child at the time. So, we were all split up. I kind of went back and forth from Nana’s for about a good three years. I would stay with her and spend the weekends with my mom.
Between 8th grade and freshman year, DFCS got involved. I lived with my cousins in Winder and my aunt two different times after being put in the nut house. I was there for 30 days because two of my friends went to the counselor and told her that I was cutting myself and taking pills. One of them found the pills and the other saw the cuts. I remember being so upset because I didn’t want anyone to know but I probably would be dead if it wasn’t for that. I had weekly meetings with the school. I remember getting really angry at the DFCS psychologist because she said all I wanted was attention. I threw a fit in her office because I was doing everything I could, and I wanted to be like, “Hey, why don’t you go be in my shoes for a while, please go live there.” It was very frustrating.
During freshman year, I finally was able to move back home with my mom because she was “sober enough.” I went back home and I thought she was going to be okay. But, she was constantly drinking. People were in and out of the house all the time, people I never knew. Mom was really angry and violent, and so was her boyfriend, Bo. They did a lot of things they shouldn’t have. I saw a lot of things I shouldn’t have.
When I was 15, I started working at Zaxby’s to help pay the bills because my mom couldn’t do it. I remember missing school a couple of times to get my mom out of jail or to work because she couldn’t pay the power bill or the water bill, couldn’t buy groceries. It was always something.
During sophomore year I moved in with my friend Tori. She drove me to my house to get all my stuff. I took everything that I knew I needed, trying to be as quiet as possible and stuffing it in the car. I never wanted to go back.
I think the worst thing that ever happened was moving out of Tori’s house. It was like a breakup, but worse. I think the reason I chose to leave was because I felt very out of place I was so used to parenting myself that having someone else try to parent me was really hard for me to take in. I guess I don’t take authority well, because I was so used to taking care of myself for so long.
My friends were my family. I felt like I didn’t have family because my real dad and grandmother knew I was in that situation, and nobody was ever there to help me. You could call them day after day and nobody would pick up the phone. I enjoyed spending the night at my friend’s house, going to the dock and hanging out, just being able to get away. I think that helped a lot. Seeing my friends and the families they had. Obviously, they weren’t perfect but they were pretty close to it. It gave me a lot of hope and I knew that one day my life wasn’t going to always be so terrible. I think that if I didn’t have my friends I would be dead.
I still have struggles but looking at where I have been and where I could be is very motivating. I always knew that I had to work hard if I wanted to get out of that lifestyle. The only way I could was by the choices that I made.
Told by: Victoria Swaim
This story originally appeared in Facing Homelessness in Hall County, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia.