Similar situation: I have never written in response to a story before, but I just had to say thank you for this one ["Homeless in Suburbia," by Todd Spivak, February 22]. I grew up in a very similar situation to Michael's ten years ago in Memorial. I went to the best schools; I had friends whose parents were the who's who of society; I ate on other families' tabs at the racket club; I slept in friends' guest houses. I too came from a dysfunctional home that was drug- and alcohol-addled.
Reading this story was like reliving my high school years. I know how scary it is! Looking back, the only thing that makes me mad is that I didn't get to enjoy what were supposed to be the best years of my life. I had no money, no food, no family. I was alone and responsible for myself. I had to make a lot of bad choices in order to survive. I was a child put in very adult situations that could have cost me my life or sanity. Luckily, I survived it all.
If it is any comfort to Michael or to you, I turned out well. I graduated a year ahead of schedule. I went to college. I am successful. I have my own family now, and it is the kind of family that I always deserved -- I just had to make it myself.
Name withheld by request
Phone = home: This story is not about the homeless. In Michael's case, it's likely about another one of our disrespectful youth in today's society. Did you fully research the so-called abusive family environment he claims caused him to be homeless? I don't think too many homeless have cell phones, do you?
Our online readers weigh in:
Fantastic article: The trends that are chronicled here are true nationwide. Suburban homelessness and poverty are increasingly significant, and all the more challenging because they are hidden. Local suburban communities and governments tend to hide or minimize the issue because it's bad for business and investment. I live in DuPage County in the western suburbs of Chicago, and it's one of the most affluent counties of the country, but it also has a growing homeless population. I'm encouraged that we have nonprofit organizations partnering with local church networks to provide shelter and meals, but there's still much more that could be done.
Comment by Al Hsu
February 22, 2007 @ 09:06AM
Orange County of Texas: I am so glad that you did this story. My heart goes out to all the youth who are dealing with these sad issues, especially those who are surrounded by a community that won't recognize their existence. Fort Bend is a hard community to be in because most of the youth have no appreciation for the value of a dollar -- their parents give them whatever they want. It saddens me that most people tell me I shouldn't give to the homeless because they chose to be out there, when that is not the case! Most people who are homeless are that way for many reasons -- mental illness, abuse (sexual, mental, physical or neglect), drug addiction, loss of employment. I believe that it is our duty (in my case, as a Christian) to reach out to those in need and help them. If all someone is asking for is a lunch, a beer or a cigarette, we should be happy that is all they are asking for, instead of a place to stay. To be quite honest, sometimes that is the only thing to get them through the day. We should be thankful that we are not in their situation. I hope that Fort Bend will start looking at the problems that exist around them. I have family in Sugar Land and was raised at a church in Sugar Land. It is the Orange County of Texas.
Comment by Mindy
February 22, 2007 @ 11:17AM
Excellent article: I commend you for bringing this issue to light. I hope that this issue gets more media coverage and people become aware of the problems that are in their own backyards. As a social worker in Fort Bend County, I am well aware of the problems of the homeless and the lack of public transportation. Lack of affordable medical care is also a huge problem. It is a shame that one of the richest counties in the nation refuses to acknowledge the problem of the working poor and homeless population, in particular in our children. For anyone to say that we do not need more social services or homeless shelters means that they are just burying their heads in the sand and refusing to see what is actually occurring in their "perfect community."
Comment by Anonymous
February 22, 2007 @ 08:20PM
Punishing the homeless: Thank you for this article. I was homeless from the ages of 16 to 18 in order to avoid an abusive family member. I learned that little is in place to help homeless youth, but that much is done to punish them for seeking help.
Our city is expanding rapidly and, of course, our homeless problem will continue to increase. To pretend that teen homelessness is not happening will further hurt children who have already been victimized.
Comment by Carly Pedersen
February 23, 2007 @ 05:49PM
Blood diamond: I have had the experience of being a suburban homeless youth five times from the ages of 15 to 21. Plus the fact that I'm black means twice the hardship. My mother and stepfather were both college-educated, my mother a schoolteacher, my stepfather a logistics specialist. My mother, younger brother and I moved to Cheektowaga (a suburb of Buffalo, New York) in 2000, when I was 14, after she and my stepfather separated. She took out her anger on me because she strongly dislikes my biological father. I started to lose focus in school, and by 15, had already been kicked out of two high schools. My mother would use food denial as punishment, and would turn her wedding ring with the diamond inward and slap me across the face with it. She would lock me out of my house and not let me shower, even though I had to go to school the next day; of course, my school socialization failed. I never developed any close friends in high school, and the white teachers were not sympathetic to a black kid coming from a supposedly middle-class black Buppie household. I scored high on tests (I was in a gifted and talented program from grades K3), and the teachers recognized my intelligence, but not my plight. I committed petty vandalism, getting arrested and placed on probation from 16 to 18, and ended up at a litany of youth shelters.
Comment by wnycrusty
February 27, 2007 @ 10:10AM
Two Press staffers receive national education awards
Two Houston Press writers have been honored with 2006 National Awards for Education Reporting, sponsored by the Education Writers of America.
Staff writer Todd Spivak received First Prize in the Feature, News Feature or Issue Package category for his story "Cut Short," which addressed zero-tolerance issues in a local public high school.
Editor Margaret Downing was issued a Special Citation in the same category for her story "Opt In, Opt Out" about Community Education Partners, a private alternative school used by the Houston Independent School District.
As a first-place finisher, Spivak is eligible for the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, open to all first-prize winners in the contest. The grand prize winner will be announced at a May 5 awards banquet in Los Angeles.
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The article "SXSW, WTF?" [Wack, by Jonanna Widner, March 1] incorrectly stated that alternative showcase Fuck by Fuck You is now defunct. In fact, FXFU is alive and well.
In addition, two stories, "Rocket Launch" [Night & Day, by Dusti Rhodes, March 1] and "Tear-Stained Letters" [Night & Day, by Dusti Rhodes, February 22], stated that movies playing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Bottle Rocket and Letters from the Other Side, were free. In fact, the MFAH charged its standard ticket prices for both films: $7 general admission; $6 for students, seniors and members; free for members of Film Buffs and children ages five and younger.
The Press regrets the errors.