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    Parker Owens
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

A to Z - 3. Normal and Weird

WARNING: violence, abuse, and assault. Read with appropriate caution.

(Second Week of May)

May 10

It took a few days, but I figured how to keep Ackerman from noticing me. I went to the library during lunch period and went to my locker between different periods. I skipped Gym class, and I guess I’ll hustle through the locker room early next time.

There’s enough to do each day without worrying about the Ackermans of this world.

Here’s Dad’s chore for today:

“Clean basement walls. Clean basement floor – not just sweep – mop, rinse, mop again. Don’t forget to move the furniture and junk to get under it.”

This in addition to making breakfast, dinner, our lunches for the next day, regular cleanup and other daily chores. Another thing. Dad eats dinner first, and then – maybe – me, afterwards. Sometimes, Dad doesn’t think I deserve to eat, or I just didn’t make enough. Anyway, then comes homework, which Dad often makes a point of checking before bed – if he’s in a good mood, or if he hasn’t been drinking.

I should explain that Dad is very proud he went to college and got a degree. He doesn’t like anyone to forget that, especially his useless, good-for-nothing son.

Last month, he had a problem with my paper on Oliver Cromwell.

“When was the Civil War? Huh? In 1865, you idiot!”

It didn’t matter that the assignment was asking about the English civil war that happened over a century-and-a-half earlier. Dad ranted on about Robert E. Lee and Pickett’s charge and so on until he dragged me around by the collar, smacked me around for a while, and told me I’d have to re-do the assignment before I could go to bed. Then he proceeded to tear up my perfectly good homework.

There’s no arguing with Dad.

“Yes, sir,” was all I could say, hoping I hadn’t riled him up too much. He must have been satisfied, because I didn’t get kicked as I got out my precious paper to do his version of my homework all over again. Once Dad went to bed, I could try to reproduce my previous homework – if I could stay awake that long.

That was a fairly easy homework battle.

I get up at five and fix breakfast. He gets up at six, sits down and eats what I’ve made. If I’m lucky, I might get a grunt.

Dad is not a morning person.

Today wasn’t much different from most days.

“What’s this on the floor, you moron?” he yelled in my ear.

I couldn’t help jumping at the noise. Dad thought I was playing stupid, so he grabbed my hair and forced me to look down by our feet.

“There. On the floor. What. Is. That???”

I saw a few drops of soapy water I’d splashed from the sink.

“Can’t you do even something simple right without soaking the whole house?”

As usual, I couldn’t think of what to say. I thought I was being careful, but I guess I had been pretty clumsy.

Dad gave me a firm shove in the chest.

“Can’t you even wash a few dishes with out completely destroying the kitchen? Huh?”

He shoved me again, harder. I fell.

“Oh, get up, you miserable shit! I want this floor swept and mopped spotless before you leave for school, got that?”

I nodded, as he loomed over me.

“What’s that, stupid? I didn’t hear you!”

“Yes, sir,” I managed to get out. That’s always the easiest thing to say.

I knew what the result of my sloppiness would be. I would miss the bus and have to walk to school. I’d be late again, serve my detention – again – and walk home in the evening because the last bus would have left. Again. Dad would be pissed because supper would be late; it would go downhill from there.

Again.

All because I can’t be neater. All because I’m such a stupid, stupid kid.

At least maybe the weekend will be quiet.

 

May 14

It wasn’t quiet.

I got screamed at for making supper late. After supper, Dad sat in front of the TV and drank beer, watching the Penguins lose a playoff game.

I tried to keep out of the way by doing a couple of loads of laundry. I could sweep, but I couldn’t vacuum the house until Dad’s game was over, so I sat down at the kitchen table with a book for a few minutes until the dryer was done.

“What’s this?”

I looked up. Dad was standing right in front of me. His eyes were wide and dangerous. Oh shit. I’d gotten a drink of water after doing the first load of laundry, and I forgot to wash the glass. I had left it in the sink.

“It’s my glass, sir. I just forgot to –"

“I know what it is, idiot. What I don’t get is why you think you can leave your mess all over the house.”

Dad grabbed my collar and hauled me out of my chair. He dragged me down the hall to my bedroom. I knew what was coming.

“Please, I’ll wash it.”

“Too late for that, fool.”

I was shoved through the door and landed face first on the bed.

“Please, I’ll wash everything over –"

“You stupid little fuck, do you think that will make it better?”

I felt my shirt being pushed up and my pants yanked down. There was the sound clinking metal, the hiss of leather sliding against denim. I knew what was coming and tensed up. I also knew that trying to squirm or get out of the way would only make things worse. Better to take my punishment now.

I heard the whoosh of motion through the air.

With the crack of the strap against flesh, my back exploded in pain.

“Why. Can’t. You. Follow. Simple. Rules?”

Each word punctuated a new searing blossom of agony.

It took twenty minutes for Dad to quit. I watched each moment tick by on the digital clock. I knew there would be new scars to go with the old ones tomorrow. Eventually, I was alone again. Slowly, I got to my feet, limped into the bathroom, and took a shower to try to clean up and ease the pain.

At least Dad is sleeping off the beer and the exertion and probably won't wake up the rest of tonight.

And I knew he'd sleep late tomorrow.

There is still plenty of work to do tomorrow – cleaning up and finishing the chores that I didn't get done today so that I can start the new ones. There's the lawn to mow and the woodpile to straighten up.

Unfortunately, Sunday is looking pretty dismal. I just hope I can stay out of dad's way.

 

May 16

A seriously weird thing happened today.

At lunch, I went to my corner, away from everyone else, and started reading my book. Books have big advantages. They’re free from the library, for one thing. For another, with my longish hair and my head down, I can watch the room over the top of the page when I want to.

Anyhow, I was getting into this old series, A Wizard of Earthsea, when I saw a couple of older girls sit down at a table near mine. Preppy, ponytails, polo shirts. You get the idea.

They talked for a while, almost putting their heads together. The one wearing red looked over her shoulder at me a couple of times. This never happens.

I kept holding my book up, but I couldn’t concentrate. They giggled away, speaking conspiratorially to each other in low voices. I didn’t know what they were saying, but I didn’t like being the subject of their conversation. I got up, stuffed my book into my pack and walked out of the cafeteria.

It got worse later in the day, at my locker.

One of the girls from lunch, the one in blue, was suddenly at my elbow, peering over my shoulder as I worked the combination lock.

“Hey,” she said, by way of introduction.

“What?” I wasn’t going to make this any easier.

“Did you know you’re cute?”

I looked up sharply at her and stared, waiting for more. She looked surprised. I guess that wasn’t what she thought I would do.

She tried again.

“So, do you think you might go out with me on Saturday?”

Just what was going on? I was anonymous and I could live with that. I don’t live in her world. Hell, I don’t even live in her galaxy. Who was this girl, anyway?

“Look,” I said “I don’t even know you. I’m a sophomore nobody. You don’t even know my name, do you?”

“Sure I do,” she said, putting on a bright and obviously fake smile. “You’re Stephen,” she said triumphantly, pronouncing it wrong, like “STEFFen” instead of “StePHAN.”

I felt like I was being conned into something I shouldn’t want to do.

“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I can’t go out on Saturday.”

She didn’t seem too crushed.

“So how about tonight?”

“Nope. Sorry.”

“Sunday afternoon?”

“No. I just can’t, OK?”

Now she looked a little frustrated. Not hurt, but exasperated.

“Why not?”

“I don’t go out. With anyone.”

“What, is it against your religion, or something?”

I looked hard at her. Preppy girls like her just don’t mix with outcasts like me. If she wanted a conversation or something, I could almost see trying to hang out for a little while. We could have done that at lunch. Somehow, she was playing me for something.

“No, I just don’t want to. You don’t go with my kind.”

She set her mouth in a hard line, but the corners of her mouth twisted up a little.

“No, I guess not,” she snapped, and she stalked away down the hall.

That was the end of that, and I heaved a sigh of relief.

Thanks to Craftingmom for her tireless and astute editing.

Reviews of any kind are most welcome.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

Poor Stefan. I feel so bad for him that he has to live with that prick of a father. I wonder what's up with those girls? I'm with him in thinking that it's nothing good. Good thing he's smart enough to not fall for whatever they're up to. Another good chapter. :)

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It's a very well written description of domestic violence. It's the same basic horrible mechanisms, breaking someone down and letting them believe they are nothing. I get so upset thinking about it.

 

And yes, sadly I think Stefan is right to be careful. As I said before, kids can be so cruel...

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Yep. Stefan's world is alien to most people ...thank goodness!
The girl. Hmmm. Could be what he suspects, or maybe not. Although it's difficult to see her type suddenly believing an emaciated, poorly dressed recluse is cute. But then, I guess her world is alien to me so, what do I know?
Parker, you managed to make a downer of a chapter suddenly interesting!
Great job!!

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On 10/05/2015 04:20 AM, Valkyrie said:

Poor Stefan. I feel so bad for him that he has to live with that prick of a father. I wonder what's up with those girls? I'm with him in thinking that it's nothing good. Good thing he's smart enough to not fall for whatever they're up to. Another good chapter. :)

Stefan is definitely wary, and has learned that much. His father is implacably horrible. Something is up...

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On 10/05/2015 05:53 AM, Puppilull said:

It's a very well written description of domestic violence. It's the same basic horrible mechanisms, breaking someone down and letting them believe they are nothing. I get so upset thinking about it.

 

And yes, sadly I think Stefan is right to be careful. As I said before, kids can be so cruel...

That is what is the worst thing. Stefan thinks that this is a normal life for him.

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On 10/05/2015 06:48 AM, skinnydragon said:

Yep. Stefan's world is alien to most people ...thank goodness!

The girl. Hmmm. Could be what he suspects, or maybe not. Although it's difficult to see her type suddenly believing an emaciated, poorly dressed recluse is cute. But then, I guess her world is alien to me so, what do I know?

Parker, you managed to make a downer of a chapter suddenly interesting!

Great job!!

Thanks for continuing to read Stefan's story. Painful as it is, this is a story that needs telling.

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You know what makes this even harder to stomach, is that there is a child going through that exact same thing somewhere. A number of somewheres even. I feel terribly for Stefan.
I'm glad his defences are up when it comes to those girls. It's more likely they have a bet and would further humiliate him.

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Parker, oh god, it's so hard to read this. So many children, our children suffer all kinds of abuse everyday, physical, mental and are used as housekeepers and personal slaves and worse. I've seen too much of it.
So many people don't f'kg see!! Look around you, actually look. This is about street kids...have a look folks:
http://imgur.com/wdP01Tw

 

tim

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On 10/05/2015 08:11 AM, Mikiesboy said:

Parker, oh god, it's so hard to read this. So many children, our children suffer all kinds of abuse everyday, physical, mental and are used as housekeepers and personal slaves and worse. I've seen too much of it.

So many people don't f'kg see!! Look around you, actually look. This is about street kids...have a look folks:

http://imgur.com/wdP01Tw

 

tim

This is a hard story, at least at first. Followed your link, and I commend it to everyone who reads these reviews. Crafting on wrote "What No One Sees," which inspired this story. Both are vey hard. Both deal with busy adults who don't or can't see the evidence right in front of them.

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On 10/05/2015 07:17 AM, Defiance19 said:

You know what makes this even harder to stomach, is that there is a child going through that exact same thing somewhere. A number of somewheres even. I feel terribly for Stefan.

I'm glad his defences are up when it comes to those girls. It's more likely they have a bet and would further humiliate him.

There are far too many somewhere's . Not to be preachy about it, but there are things we all could do to help the Stefan's of this world.

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Again this was difficult to read. Nobody can do everything 100% right. There will always be something. Stefan sounds so defeated, but then, when you think he's so deprived of attention, he would jump at some interest, he does the smart thing, thank God. I just have the feeling this isn't the end of it.

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On 10/29/2015 06:05 PM, aditus said:

Again this was difficult to read. Nobody can do everything 100% right. There will always be something. Stefan sounds so defeated, but then, when you think he's so deprived of attention, he would jump at some interest, he does the smart thing, thank God. I just have the feeling this isn't the end of it.

Alas, it doesn't get easier, at least not for some time. Stefan's father is a brute and a tyrant; Stefan has been cut off from anyone who might be good for him. I beg you to keep the faith with Stefan, though it will take a while for things to turn for him.

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Sadness for Stephan, anger for his father, mistrust of the girls intentions. You pulled off another good chapter.

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Okay, that was it for me for the night. I got to watch that happen to my mother on a regular basis. My mother's big mistake was being very beautiful. Gary...

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On 12/13/2015 04:15 PM, Headstall said:

Okay, that was it for me for the night. I got to watch that happen to my mother on a regular basis. My mother's big mistake was being very beautiful. Gary...

Thank you for managing this much. It does get better. I am sorry for the unhappiness and pain you suffered, doubly sorry I caused you the pain of recollection. Again, thank you for reading.

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This was almost harder to read the second time around! This has to be one of the very few times I've been glad to have a short chapter to read. But I am so glad I stayed the story…

 

No pressure, but I am waiting for sequels to this story! ;-)

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On 05/17/2016 01:09 AM, droughtquake said:

This was almost harder to read the second time around! This has to be one of the very few times I've been glad to have a short chapter to read. But I am so glad I stayed the story…

 

No pressure, but I am waiting for sequels to this story! ;-)

Thanks very much for taking the time to revisit the journal. I agree about re-reading, it was harder to edit than to write.

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I decided to come back and comment. This has been such an atrocity of all kinds of abuse that it makes my blood boll!!!:/

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And what is worse, such things happen to real children. They are rarities, but not rare enough. We need to be there for kids in situations like these. Thank you for reading!

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Poor Stefan, the simplest mistake and he gets beaten. I hate his father so much.

Edited by chris191070
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7 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Poor Stefan, the simplest mistake and he gets beaten. I hate his father so much.

Stefan’s father harbors such sustained hatred toward his son. Across this country, there are too many such angry men. Thanks for reading. 

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On 10/4/2015 at 5:10 PM, Parker Owens said:

This is a hard story, at least at first. Followed your link, and I commend it to everyone who reads these reviews. Crafting on wrote "What No One Sees," which inspired this story. Both are vey hard. Both deal with busy adults who don't or can't see the evidence right in front of them.

For those who can't read the microfine print:

-----

Why Can’t Street Kids Just Get a Life?

We’ve all asked that question before at some point when walking by a street kid.
Why can’t they just get off the street?
Why can’t they grow up and take some responsibility by going to school and getting a job?

Well, imagine being that street kid for a second.

Getting a life is not a simple snap of the fingers. It isn’t easy to just get a job or an education. And they can’t always just go home.

For street kids, every day is survival. Their life is based on simply getting through it. Finding food and shelter is their job, and even overcoming that doesn’t put them in any kind of position to find stability in their lives.

Getting off the street is just the beginning.

So let’s start from the beginning. We’ll call this kid Steve.

Steve’s day starts at sunrise in a public park. The sun hits him dead in the eye and he wakes up shivering. Steve springs up from the bench he slept on to make sure his stuff is still under it. It’s almost nothing, a backpack with a couple of sweaters and a thermos in it, but two nights ago he almost got beat up for it.

He was walking through a different park across town when three guys sitting on a bench asked him if he had a cigarette. Steve ignored them and kept walking, but he knew they weren’t through with him yet. After verbally harassing him, they stood up and moved to surround Steve. He began to shake with fear. Steve told them again that he didn’t have anything, but they didn’t care anymore. They weren’t going to leave without something. They began to step closer to Steve. And closer. One pulled out a knife from his back pocket. Just as another guy tried to grab Steve’s backpack, Steve darted through an opening just out of their reach. They chased him for a few steps, but Steve was already far away, his backpack still in his possession.

This morning, Steve’s exhausted and he needs to get out of the wind. He picks up his backpack and spends the next two hours looking for an alleyway. Hopefully he can find one that’s quiet, and, if possible, has boxes or newspapers that he can use to protect himself from the biting chill.

Steve scours the alleyways in his area and finally settles on one. It seems perfect and he can’t remember why he doesn’t sleep there more often. He finds a spot, puts his head down and begins to doze off. The sounds of the city fade. He falls asleep. He dreams. 

In this fleeting moment, everything is OK. He’s in his old home, in a warm bed, everyone’s calm and there’s breakfast waiting for him when he decides to – “Get up, kid” – says the police officer standing over Steve. Steve opens his eyes as the officer informs him that he needs to clear out immediately. Steve rubs his eyes. Now he remembers the problem with this alleyway.

He stands, picks up his things starts his day again. Steve can’t stop thinking about his dream. But that’s all it was. 

Nothing like his actual life at home. He can still feel the pain from his father’s fists. Hear his mother’s screams. Things have been getting worse and worse at home since his father lost his job. It all started when his father came home drunk from the bar one night. Steve remembers the red mark on his mother’s face the next morning and refusing to believe what was unfolding around him. But that refusal only made things worse, because Steve could never convince his father that he needed help. So it continued, one incident after another until one night, it wasn’t just Steve’s mother that was on the receiving end of it. It was him.

His mother screamed louder when Steve was being beaten than when she was, and those are the sounds that haunt Steve every single day. The bruises are gone now, but the mental scarring never will be. 

Steve manages to snap back into reality, but reality isn’t any better. Steve has not only had very little sleep in the past couple of days, but also very little food. He really doesn’t feel like rummaging through a garbage can this morning. That means it’s time to go to the street and beg for change. He’ll never get used to doing this, but he’s had to learn fast. Having to decide which street corner to sit on and beg strangers for change isn’t something he ever envisioned doing. 

He decides on a busy corner downtown and begins the hike in that direction. He hopes the long walk is worth the extra money he’ll receive for being a busier area. At least it isn’t winter yet. The very thought of spending all winter on the street sends chills down Steve’s spine.

He’s felt a northern winter before. He can’t still be out here by then...

Can he?

When Steve finally arrives, he sits down on the street corner and takes off his toque. He eyes the people walking by and begins to beg. "Change please?" is what he usually says, but today he’s a little more desperate. He’s painfully hungry and it shows in the anguish in his voice. Steve always tries his best to not worry about what other people are thinking, but it’s hard. He can see the way they look at him. People are either scared of him, disgusted by him or they’ll ignore him altogether. He’s not sure which one is worse, but sometimes it feels like everyone hates him for one reason or another.

Today, one person in particular is very aggressive when Steve asks him for change. He tells him that he’s a loser and that he should get a job. After a few hours and thousands of passersby later, Steve has $7.24, just enough for a burger combo. After waiting for a few moments, Steve slowly picks up the change in his toque. He stares at it, scared of what he might do with it.

It takes him all the strength he has to not use the money for something else. Two weeks ago, someone else on the street started giving him free "samples". When you’re in a dark enough place, sometimes you’ll do whatever people tell you will make you feel better. It doesn’t matter who that person is. It doesn’t matter if deep down you know that what they’re offering isn’t a way out at all, but another anchor to keep you drowning. 

On these dark days, hope is replaced by distraction. Steve is constantly tempted to just let go and get away, but today he somehow fights that temptation off. He gets up and makes his way toward the restaurant.

When he gets to the front of the line, Steve dumps the change on the counter before ordering. The annoyed cashier counts it as the people in line behind start to get restless. Steve tries to recall the last time he didn’t have to pay for something in change, but can’t. It’s always embarrassing, especially when the line is as long as this. He asks the cashier if she can unlock the bathroom for him and she hesitates. Steve is rarely allowed to use a public bathroom, even as a paying customer. But today, the cashier doesn’t want to keep the other customers waiting so she unlocks the door.

Steve splashes water onto his dirty face inside the bathroom. He studies his reflection in the mirror. How long can he keep doing this for? When will this nightmare end? 

No kid should have to live like this. As he rinses, he begins to daydream. He thinks about the feeling of having a nice, long shower in a real bathroom. He steps out onto the cool floor and dries himself off with a soft, fresh towel. 

Steve is snapped out of his daydream by the sound of the knock and the sink overflowing. He opens the door to find the manager. He has to leave now. Steve puts his head down, grabs his food and heads outside. 

Later, with his hunger temporarily gone, Steve is back in his only home – the street. Back where he has no hope. There have been days when the shame has been too much, when Steve tried to find a way out.

Steve recalls a time a few months earlier when he first started living on the street. He had woken up with a sense of hope that day he never felt before. He had slept in an abandoned warehouse another guy told him about and managed to split some breakfast with someone else staying there. That day, Steve was allowed to have something on his mind besides finding food, finding somewhere to sleep and try not to get mugged. So, he wanted to do what so many strangers have told him to do before - get a job.

Steve was walking down the street when he noticed a convenience store with a "Help Wanted" sign in front of it. Steve took a deep breath and walked into the store. He went straight to the cashier at the front and asked about the sign. But all he got back were insults. The owner told Steve that he sees him on the streets every day. He told him his clothes were a mess. He must have been insane to think anyone would hire a stupid, lazy homeless kid. Steve slunk out and glanced back behind him at the "Help Wanted" sign.

This had happened before. He didn’t understand why no one would give him a chance. He doubted himself to the point where he began to wonder if he would even be able to trust the person who did. That was the day that Steve realized that the hill he had to climb was actually a mountain.

Steve hears a car’s honk that snaps him back to an all too familiar reality. He’s out of money again. He has no place to go. He feels physically and mentally beaten. And soon it will be nightfall. Soon he’ll be back at the bottom of the mountain once again.

This is just a glimpse into Steve’s struggle and the struggle that so many homeless kids face.

There is no living, only surviving.

And when you’re trying to survive on the street, every little thing is an obstacle. Every time you beg for change, every time you go to the bathroom, every time you want to sleep, eat, or drink – nothing comes easy.

For many kids like Steve who want a way out, the struggle to meet your basic needs is only the beginning.

The coming days, weeks, and months provide hurdles even harder to overcome. The physical pain may lesson when leaving the street behind, but the mental anguish is constant when you’re trying to forge a new life.

Getting an education, applying for a job, admitting that you need counseling – these are hard for anyone. When you have to do all these things from scratch, the frustration can mount as fast as the confidence can fade. From learning how to stay warm in that first winter on the street, to the first day back at school, from deciding whether to steal food or pass out from hunger, to deciding where to get a shirt to wear for that first job interview, there are endless obstacles for homeless kids.

That’s why.

studentsleepout.org

Nov 2013

-----

Interesting that one is Stefan and the other is Steve.

Edited by BlueWindBoy
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@BlueWindBoy Thank you very much for adding this to the reaction/comment thread. You’ve hit upon the kind of survival too many kids  - and adults - have to face every day. The obstacle course kids have to face in the street would daunt an Olympian. 

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