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The Secret Lives of Homeless Students

After years of homelessness, I graduated college and a competitive Master’s program. What about the other million-plus homeless students in the US?

By Jessica Sutherland

Did you know that there are an estimated 1.2 million homeless students in American K-12 schools? For many years, I was one of them. My mother and I lived in the same motel room from kindergarten through third grade; after a few years in a “real” home that ended when I was 11, we spent the next six straight years in a cycle of chronic homelessness in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio.

To many people, homelessness evokes images of bums in tent cities, or families sleeping in a station wagon. While we spent our share of time sleeping in a shelter or a car, my childhood homelessness was mostly spent doing what my mother — still, to this day — prefers to call “bouncing around”: living in motel rooms, or sleeping in whatever extra space people could find for us in their homes, for as long as we could stretch our welcome. Occasionally, we’d have an apartment for a few months, but we’d never have any furniture, and we’d always get evicted.

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If you are experiencing a medical or psychiatric emergency, or are in immediate danger, please dial 911.

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If you have no place to sleep tonight, please call 211 for referral to an emergency shelter nearest your current location.

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For other assistance please contact American Family Housing at (714)897-3221 or email us at info@afhusa.org.