Dawn’s sign reads “PREGNANT & STRESSED!!” as she sits begging for change in San Francisco. She is hoping to get enough money to pay for a hotel room.
Dawn has had a challenging life. She first started shooting heroin at 12 years-old. Both of her parents were drug addicts. She then started traveling and hopping trains until she was 28, when she got pregnant with her second son. Dawn says she was tired of the streets and the drugs.
Travelers are a subculture of homeless youth that are known for hopping trains. You’ve seen them hanging out in your city. They almost have a uniform wearing brown clothes and often have dogs. Most of the kids seem happy, and the hippie lifestyle looks attractive. Truth is, many of these kids are “throw away” often running from horrible family situations. They find community with each other, but as young adults this lifestyle does not come with any professional or even social development. One youth leader once told me she was concerned because these kids don’t get the nutrition they need. As fun as the traveling lifestyle may look I have often wondered how many of these kids end up as chronic homeless in their adult years. Dawn is one.
Dawn has been in and out of rehabs. Her story validates a very serious problem in social services we need to fix. More often than not drugs programs do not coordinate with other support services. What this means is when a person wants to get sober we can find them a detox, but after they are placed back on the streets, and it’s nearly impossible to do homeless sober!
Dawn’s three wishes resonate with me in a very powerful way. Although Dawn seems happy she is holding back so much sadness. She is a gorgeous woman with lots of life inside here. We need to help her and all the Dawns just like her on the streets of America.