“Mental health is probably the most important thing to youth who are homeless. That's one of the biggest struggles.”
"My name is Persie. I’m 19, and I grew up in Chicago."
What's a fun fact about you?
How do you like to spend your free time?
Where do you go to school?
"I'm in Truman Community College for my GED. I started January of this year and I just finished my English quarter."
Where do you work?
“I actually work for Ignite. I'm a receptionist at their community hub. I really like it. I'm helping people get in the door, screening people, getting rooms prepared for intakes, organizing things in the back rooms. But honestly [this job] really helped me grow as a person, because I used to not be able to answer phones for anyone, not even friends. I didn’t really like talking on the phone. But being in this job really helped me get out of my comfort zone, so I’m more comfortable and able to do that.”
How did your journey with homelessness start?
"Well, it really first started when I was around 13, when my parents announced their divorce. [Soon after,] the utilities in our house were all shut off. We had to go stay with my grandmother, and we ended up losing that apartment. At the same time they pulled me and my brother out of school, but our homeschooling wasn't always guaranteed. My mom is disabled, so she didn’t have a job and we couldn't always afford it."
When did you most recently lose housing?
“Last year, I was in and out of a mental hospital for different stuff, but, I came back and then things were sort of off with my mom. Me and my mom actually got in a fight, so I couldn't go home.”
What was the process of finding housing like?
After several days at The Harbor, an emergency shelter in Des Plaines, and two months in short-term housing at The Night Ministry, Persie was matched with one of the transitional housing programs run by Ignite, a nonprofit organization.
What is living in a transitional housing program like, and what resources are available to you there?
What do you wish more people understood about youth homelessness?
“I wish more people understood how youth homelessness really affects a person. [Many] of the older people who are homeless on the streets, if you ask them their stories, they’ve been homeless since 16, 17. If they had resources like that, they probably wouldn’t be on the street as long as they were. So I wish people understood that this is a really pivotal time to interfere with [what can make] someone end up being homeless for a really long time.”
What else do you want to share about youth homelessness?
What's one goal you have for this year?
“I'm really focused on housing, and getting into either one of Ignite’s housing programs or getting a CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) voucher. I have an apartment picked out that I've been focusing on getting, even before I became homeless. I found out about these specific apartments [when] I was maybe 17. These apartments are very special because they put all your utilities and everything into one bill. Which would be great for me because I have a hard time understanding adult concepts because of developmental delays.”
What goals do you have for your future long-term?
“I definitely want to create more art and pursue that as a career within the next couple of years. I really want to get far enough with a big following so I can make it into an actual career!”