“When this happens to you, you learn to appreciate the little things, like just taking a walk. Because when you become like this, you can’t just take a walk.” Says homeless youth, Brittany.
Brittany is one of many homeless youths in Philadelphia, she is 24 years old and her days consist solely of trying to survive.
Despite the days of hopelessness spent on the street, Brittany has devoted herself to keeping her goals and esteem intact. She is a devout Christian, who goes to church whenever she can. Brittany has also never done drugs or alcohol regardless of the countless accusations she receives daily, simply because she is homeless.
Brittany is not the stereotypical “homeless junky,” she is the victim of unfortunate circumstances that could affect anyone’s life in the same manner.
At the age of 5, Brittany and her two brothers were taken away from their father and mother, an alcoholic who often abused other drugs. The specifics of exactly why she was separated from her parents are still partially a mystery to Brittany.
“I’ve heard too many different stories from different family members, I don’t know who to trust.” Brittany says on the matter.
For the better half of 11 years, Brittany and her two younger brothers stayed with their great aunt in Ohio, where Brittany was abused physically, emotionally, and mentally.
“I don’t have a lot of memories from my past; I try to block it out,” Brittany explained. “I have more memories of the bad than I do the good…because I’ve had more bad happen to me than good.” Brittany says with striking honesty.
Around the age of 12, Brittany’s mother regained custody of her and her brothers and brought them back to their home state of Kentucky. While back in her mother’s care Brittany’s tumultuous journey of homelessness began.
“We stayed in tents, a van…” Brittany goes on describing the painful days and nights of her past and where she had spent them.
But once Brittany was 18 years old, she had had enough. Brittany got a job and built a makeshift family of her own with her long-time on and off again boyfriend and his 3 children. Still hardly surviving and struggling in cruel grasp of poverty, the two of them together could barely make ends meet, but they did.
Until Brittany’s dad got cancer. She had been seeing her father secretly over the years whenever she could. She has always considered herself a “daddy’s girl,” despite the overwhelming dysfunction of her family.
“He liked to junk.” Brittany said with an air of nostalgia, “He would go around to trash cans and take the junk and bring it to the junkyard. And he had lung cancer from smoking that spread to his mouth, tongue, and throat.”
With no cancer centers in Kentucky, Brittany and her father came to Camden, NJ to seek treatment at Cooper University Hospital. But unfortunately, he died shortly after seeking care and entering hospice.
Her father’s death left Brittany destitute in Philadelphia with only thirty days to pay the rent for an apartment her father had rented during their stay, or to get out. Unable to make the rent, Brittany was stranded on the streets of Philadelphia where she has been ever since.
Even though her traumatic life has left its scars, Brittany still has hopes and plans for the future. Her goal is to earn her G.E.D and one-day help deliver babies, living her life to its fullest potential.
“I can get over this,” she says with the utmost bravery, “I can get over panhandling and the insults, I can forget this.”
Currently, Brittany is spending her days on a street corner in center city, hoping to make enough money panhandling to stay in a motel in Camden, NJ where she spends her luckier nights, and hopefully something to eat as well.
Brittany is waiting to hear if she has been approved for food stamps and hopefully housing also within the next few months.