A Place To Call Home

My name is Leanaly and my son’s name is Jadiel. From the start of his life, we both went through dark times. There were many nights that we didn’t have a place to go. My son and I were forced to start couch surfing at different homes, always going from one place to another.

This statue represents all of that and so much more for me. It’s the beginning of my harsh journey through homelessness. The first nights I spent outside were beside it, and it also was the place I would go to when I had nowhere else. It was the place I considered home. He would watch over me through the cold nights and keep me company. He was the only one that I could talk to even if he wouldn’t talk back. Even though other people judged me and saw me as a bad mother, he never did. He was the one stable person in my life. The person who, no matter what, would still be standing there waiting to see me again. He was more of a father figure than any other man in my life. The statue gives me peace, hope, and represents the progress I’ve made through the years. Now my son is the person who provides all of that to me. 

I may be in the same situation that I was then, but I have made it further since. I’ve fought hard for my son and I to endure everything the world has put us through. Having my son up on that statue scares me. It shows me how much I don’t want him to have the same life and struggles that I went through. I don’t want him sleeping by this statue in the middle of the night with no one else to talk to like I did.

Our story begins with my son and I residing in my mother’s home. At the time, it became especially unsafe for my son and I to live there but the problem was there wasn’t anywhere for us to go. My son was only 4 months old at the time. Being a mother was completely new to me and I needed to learn many lessons in order to survive. I needed to know how to be a mom and make my situation unaware to my child. I learned to keep him safe before myself. Even at times when we were forced to sleep in a car or in homes of random strangers, I made sure he was safe. I tried to have hope everytime someone offered me a helping hand, but too many times the same people who offered us a place to stay on their couch were the same people stealing from us. They took his stuff, our food, and even my money. These people constantly put us in conflicting situations. Giving me the unsafe feeling I knew all too well. I was losing hope, so scared that I would lose my baby boy, and never able to give him the life he deserves.

Every time I tried to access services they said my situation wasn’t severe as they wanted it to be. I understood that they had to deny me housing because resources were scarce. Unfortunately I was never offered services for housing, clothes, food, or any of the essentials that I needed for everyday living. I never received a call back even though I was told on numerous occasions that they would. 211 made my situation seem not dire or as if it was normal, even when I was sleeping in a car with nowhere else to go and getting kicked out of houses all with my newborn. They never deemed us or our circumstances important. 211 didn’t refer me for mental health, something that could’ve helped my situation in many ways. They asked for a letter to prove my homelessness from someone that was the head of household, something no one was interested in giving me. Every conversation sounded scripted, impersonalized, and I was not given any guidance.

At the same time, I was unemployed, but it was difficult to change that without a stable address. I was able to connect with OPP (Our Piece of the Pie) and they provided me with resources like a list of pantries, the Gifts of Love program and other materials that I needed. I was provided with work hours, and became financially stable enough to supply my child with food and clothing. 

Even with my circumstances, my son has stayed with me the whole time, and he is the one piece that I won’t lose. I fought so hard for him to maintain his happiness and keep him unaware of everything that’s going on. It took a frightening situation like this for me to learn how to be a thriving mother.  My son is 1 year old now, still in an unstable living situation, but I want to do better before he gets older and begins to realize what’s going on around him. 

I pray that others receive better help from 211 than I did.

*2-1-1 is a helpline that provides callers with information and referrals to social services like food assistance and health resources. In Connecticut, 2-1-1 is the front door to all homelessness support services in the state. Leanaly’s story points out 2-1-1 as the aspect of the system that failed her. 2-1-1 follows rules created by a broader system, one that can change with your help. You can make a difference by getting involved and sharing your story, making art, or working directly with the Youth Action Hub and the campaign to end youth homelessness in your community. Click the link to let us know how you want to make a change  (https://youthactionhub.org/getinvolved/) and become part of the Youth Action Hub network!

Like our website (https://youthactionhub.org/) or our Instagram page (Photovoice Project: More Than Homeless) to keep tabs on how Leanaly and YOU are changing the system for other young people in Connecticut.