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Sunday, November 9, 2008

On being William, a Teenager and being Homeless, Part II

By William Dominguez, 18
Continued from Saturday, November 8, 2008 …

I was in three group homes over the next month but from each one I went AWOL. I would hang out on the streets by myself until I got stopped by police for being out past curfew. The cops would bring me back to the group home, but the staff wouldn't take me back.

Running away was my first instinct

Then I was placed at a group home in Pasadena. It was cool because the staff listened to my problems. I stayed there for a year until I got caught with weed. They said they were going to kick me out. I thought that was unfair because it was nothing big. It was only weed. I was mad so I went upstairs, packed my bag and left. I took the bus to my friend's house in downtown L.A. As always, I didn't know how long I was going to be on my own.

I liked it at first. The freedom, drugs and everything were freakin' great. My friend's mom told me I had to get a job to help with rent. I tried to get a fast-food job or anything I could get. I filled out applications and asked if they had openings. But no one wanted to hire a kid with no education and who was a runaway. So after a few months, my friend's mom kicked me out.

I went to MacArthur Park near downtown. It was cold and smelled really bad. There were a lot of drug addicts and jumpings. I'd make friends and they would be like, "You wanna get high?" I started doing crack cocaine and other drugs like crystal meth, coke and speed. I had never used those drugs before, but when I was on drugs, I didn't worry about falling asleep, getting caught or eating.

When I wasn't high I would go to the library and go to sleep far away in the corner. Sometimes on Sundays I would go to the park and play basketball.

At night I would sleep in the jungle gym, in the slide that was a tube, because it was warmer. When it rained I would sleep under the freeway bridge. Once in a while I could get a good night's sleep. But other nights I couldn't because I was worried about getting caught by the police. Every now and then I would hear gunfire and it would keep me up at night.

My clothes were dirty and ripped. I smelled like piss and body odor. I would eat out of garbage cans or steal food. Before I started living on the streets I was a good 135 pounds. I lost a lot of weight. I looked like a twig. I would go a few days without eating. For the first couple days I would be starving, but on the third day the hunger went away and I couldn't feel anything. To be continued …

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