Saturday, December 13, 2008

Young woman’s blogged guide for how a teen can survive homelessness and her personal story of being on the streets gets a Lotta attention.

Carlotta Valdez.

A young woman’s blogged commentary about homelessness she experienced as a teen has generated a flood of interest.

It was only last Saturday that 19-year-old Carlotta Valdez posted a 15-item list, “How to be homeless and remain undetected” in her blog Lotta Valdez’ Weblog. [See SacHo's earlier post, "Method for Teens to Exit Homelessness."] The next day, Lotta posted “Homeless, Pt. 2,” which addressed questions regarding her list, but mainly tells the story of her life experience since the age of 15. At age 16 or 17, Lotta was homeless for something just short of a year.

In a wee few days, her two posts have generated 736 comments before commenting was stopped.

Most of the early comments to the list post were from other young women who were amazed by Lotta’s wisdom and resourcefulness and astounded by her initiative and moxie. The words “wow” and “amazing” come up a lot. The commentary was overwhelmingly positive with a few people expressing sadness that Lotta had to go through what she did.

In a couple items in her list, Lotta suggested dishonest means to survive: Raid the cabinets for food at a friend’s house and engage in petty theft at Wal-Mart. One woman of about thirty [judging by her picture] had this to say: “Why not use all your resources in the community? Rather than stealing, find all the local food banks and soup kitchens. I know being homeless causes shame and embarrassment, but teaching people to steal when they are homeless only helps perpetuate the negative stereotypes towards the poor/homeless. There are so many amazing organizations out there to help!!!! I agree that it's much harder if you are a minor, but getting a record creates a harder future. Getting sent to DJJ [the Division/Department of Juvenile Justice] has to be worse than foster care. Some of your ideas are incredibly helpful and resourceful, but finding a way to make them all productive and honest would be even better.”

Still very positive, but not wholly supportive.

As the days have gone on, the comments to both posts have gotten longer with more older adults joining in. The great majority of comments continue to be greatly supportive expressing amazement with Lotta's fortitude and inner strength.

Lotta's story as a teen is briefly this: At 15, Lotta was in Texas in foster care. Her experience was "painful and traumatic," and not a circumstance where she was learning life skills nor getting properly educated.

At 16, she was returned to her mother, but she died just months later. Her father died a few months after that. Then, she and her four young siblings were placed with a relative in a situation that was "bad" and "abusive" for her and where she didn't feel safe. She left.

Regarding her petty theft tips, Lotta writes, "Remember, morals are fluid; they change when you're hungry, dirty, or sick, regardless of your upbringing. A big-box store like Wal-Mart does very little good when it enters a community. It destroys the local economy, the environment, it gives little money to local schools or homeless shelters. I see no harm in bleeding Wal-Mart for survival, as Wal-Mart is bleeding America for profit."

Ethical arguments aside [or, maybe even not aside], Lotta seems like a whole, splendid human being who has survived some very bad breaks.

Advice at the end of her second post is breathtakingly excellent:

Be the change that you want to see in the world. Never feel superior to anyone else. Think about the homeless when you vote or volunteer. Give money to causes that will get to the root of the problem. Fight for good public schools, for foster kids, and for universal health care. Feel lucky for the smallest things in your life.

Be kind. Everyone is fighting their own battle.
An open question, though, for SacHo blog is What should a teenager in our area do if he/she is suddenly homeless? We'll see what we can find online and learn from young Sac'to homeless adults and youth and put something up in a follow-up blogpost.

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