“I’ve lived in a hotel, I’ve lived in a car before, I’ve been homeless,” said LLA student Austin Parrish, 15, in a KTVU report on teen homelessness that aired this week
By Justin Warren
“I’ve lived in a hotel, I’ve lived in a car before, I’ve been homeless,” said LLA student Austin Parrish, 15, in a KTVU report on teen homelessness that aired this week on the Channel 2 News.
As part of the SF Homeless Project‘s coordinated coverage on homelessness by media organizations across the Bay Area, KTVU reporter Monte Francis spoke to two Life Learning Academy students who described the strain and stigma of bouncing between living locations and schools after their own families.
“It’s very unpleasant. It just makes me feel really bad,” said Parrish in the broadcast, noting that it is difficult to feel confident in school when your living situation is uncertain.
“The face of homelessness doesn’t always reveal itself in expected ways,” notes Francis in the report, adding that “sometimes it’s invisible to most of us.”
LLA student Austin Parrish, 15, has navigated unstable living situations for the last four years, including living in motels and cars.
The piece, which aired Wednesday on KTVU Channel 2, featured Austin Parrish, 15, and Michael Matlock, 16, both of whom are finding stability at LLA after navigating have struggled to remain in a safe, stable residential setting in recent years.
LLA Executive Director Dr. Teri Delane spoke of the benefit of housing a reliable, safe place to live in order to fulfill the rigorous academic and workforce development goals that LLA students pursue en route to earning their diploma.
“Unstable housing is a number one predictor of kids that can end up in the juvenile justice system.” – Dr. Teri Delane
“They may have a roof,” Delane said, “but they do not have a home.”
As the founder of a school that was designed for San Francisco’s most disconnected teens, some of whom have been involved in the SF juvenile probation system, Delane emphasizes the importance of the school’s new initiative, LLABUILD, which will enhance LLA’s circle of support by creating a first-of-its-kind, no-fee boarding academy for teens in need.
Michael Matlock, 16, was placed in foster care when his parents were not able to care for him. The instability caused his grades and confidence to plummet.
Like Parrish, Michael Matlock, 16, spoke candidly with KTVU about challenges of unstable housing.
“Homelessness is moving from place to place all the time,” Matlock explained in his interview.
“It’s stressful. Worrying about staying clean, worrying about eating, worrying about doing good.” – Michael Matlock
“If you don’t want people to know, you gotta worry about them not knowing certain things,” Matlock continued, acknowledging that homelessness carries as much stigma for teens as it can for adults.
“We’re going to build something for these kids,” Delane said, noting that teens are adept at hiding their sources of insecurity, they may go unnoticed unless their caregivers build open communication and trust.
“We see it everyday,” Delane explained, in reference to teens who work to make their own homelessness invisible. “If you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.”
Both students—newcomers to LLA this Fall—are thriving at the school, earning strong marks in class and quickly integrating into the “profoundly successful” school community that prides itself on maintaining a violence-free, healthy, and supportive campus that offers rigorous, project-based academics, robust workforce training, and even contributes to graduates’ college expenses for the over 90% of students who graduate with diplomas that, for most, felt out of reach when they arrived to the small school on Treasure Island.
“Children should be focused on so they don’t become homeless adults.” – Austin Parrish
Reflecting off-camera on what it means to share their story with a large audience, both Matlock and Parrish reiterated the need to prevent stories like theirs from happening in the future.
“Take care of your children,” Matlock said, when asked what he hopes people learn from his seeing his story on TV. “Don’t have them living a reckless life. Do whatever you can to help.”
Parrish echoed the importance of adults taking seriously the problem of youth living in unsafe and unstable housing.
“I hope that people recognize that it’s an issue,” Parrish said. “I think [youth homelessness] is even more of an issue, because it starts with the kids. If they don’t have the correct life or correct way to think, they will become homeless.”