‘We had a bump in the road’
Homeless children are often victims of circumstances beyond their control
Payton, like so many other children in this country, was helpless when circumstances turned her life upside down.
There was a time earlier this year when 14-year-old Payton, not her real name, her mother and 10-year-old sister were living in an apartment in Washington, a place they could call home.
Then something happened, something neither Payton nor her mother wanted to talk about in detail, but they did say it was a “domestic violence” issue, and coupled with a subsequent eviction notice from the landlord, the three were forced to leave.
On June 12, they found safety at the Family Promise shelter in Washington.
When Payton was asked whether she was happy living in the apartment, she said, “I was, but I wasn’t. I was happy because my friends were there, but I was unhappy because the house was not fit to live in. The landlord wouldn’t fix anything if it got broke.”
But she had her own room – the master bedroom, she called it. It was the biggest room in the house, and she was happy with that. “But I miss having my own room,” she said.
Now, at Family Promise, Payton, her mother and sister share a room, and Payton, as a 14-year-old, misses having her privacy.
She said she was scared when she first arrived at Family Promise.
“I didn’t know what being in a shelter was like.”
And there was another adjustment.
“I was used to just having my sister around, but here there are other kids and families, and I wasn’t used to sharing space with 4-year-olds and babies.”
Payton’s mother has taken a leave of absence from her job while staying at Family Promise.
“I am praying they have not given away my position, but if they did, I will find something else,” she said.
Her goal once they leave Family Promise?
“Find a house, and I don’t care what it is as long as I have a roof over my kids’ head.”
In a private moment, Payton’s mother said her daughter is reacting very badly to the situation. It is not good at all, she said. She is receiving counseling, and she can’t see her friends as much as she would like. It has been very difficult for her and her sister.
But Payton has a slightly different take. She said some of her friends know she is at Family Promise, “but they keep quiet. I consider them to be my very good friends.”
When asked if it made her feel “different” to be at Family Promise, she replied, “No, I am no different than anybody else.”
Then, speaking more like an adult than a 14-year-old, she said, “We had a bump in the road, and we had to come here. It is not like I am going to be here forever.”
Payton’s mom said without Family Promise, she and her daughters would be living out of her truck. Her extended family has not been helpful.
“They don’t care what happens. We are better off here than with one of my brothers,” she said. “I don’t have anyone screaming and yelling and carrying on. The people here attempt big time to help you.”
Meanwhile, Payton is looking forward to returning to Washington High School in the fall, although she admitted is she is a “little afraid.” Last year she enrolled in cyberschool, but said nobody was at home to help her.
“Mom had to go to work, my sister was in school, and I had to do the work alone, and I really didn’t know how to do anything.”
But she is determined, if nothing else.
“After I graduate, I want to go to college and study nursing,” Payton said. “I want to make something better of my life.
“People said I am not going to do anything good in life. I want to prove them wrong, that I am worth a lot more than they think I am.”