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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

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

By William Dominguez, 18
(Final Post of a 4-part Series)
Continued from Tuesday, November 11, 2008 …

After just a week, I got picked up by the cops one night because I was falling asleep in a shopping center in West Hills. They asked, "What are those marks on your arms?" I told them I was feeling suicidal so they took me to the hospital. I was happy because I had food, a shower every day and a warm bed to sleep in.

Because of my running away and drug history, I was sent to a locked-down group home in Culver City called Vista Del Mar. I stayed there for more than a year. Sometimes I would act like I was back on the streets. I wouldn't sleep or eat for a few days and sometimes I did drugs. I still get the cravings to do drugs, but I've stayed clean.

Finally, someone believed in me!

One time when I was 18 they pissed me off to the point where I just walked out the front door. One of the staff stopped me by the gate. But they didn't kick me out. I don't know why. I guess they saw something in me. They said, "William, we know what you're going through. We're going to work with you." I guess they knew I was frustrated. I was 18 in a locked-up facility with no family, no freedom. They thought I was a good person. holy crap. That made me feel weird. If they had kicked me out, I would have been on the streets for good.

A few months later I graduated from Vista. When I found out I was going to transitional housing, which is where older foster youth live, I had nightmares where I was back on the streets. I had been a screwup my whole life. I was worried that I'd screw up and get kicked out.

In transitional living I get more freedom. I can go out for 24 hours on the weekend and spend the night at a friend's house. It's still hard because I'm not used to having a roof over my head, being able to eat three square meals a day and having people that care about me, like the staff and my friends. I still sometimes want to AWOL but I don't. I'm older and wiser. I know I have no place to go to.

For the first time, I have plans for the future. I want to go to a trade school to learn roofing. I also want to get my own place soon. Then I'll have all the freedom I want. I know I won't return to drugs. I don't want to end up like my biological father in prison.

Like they say in the movie Friday, "You win some, you lose some, but you live. You live to fight another day." My past is part of me. It will follow me wherever I go, but hopefully it will be put in the past. Sometimes I don't regret living on the streets because it made me wiser. I know what I have to do to survive. I'm going to get a job and be somebody.

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