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Housing Insecurity & Mental Health

          When I was entering my 2nd year of college, my parents decided to sell the home that our family lived in for 12 years. It was the longest running family residence we had in the history of our family’s existence. I recall my dad telling me that he had decided to return to the American midwest to pick up where he left off with his post-graduate work. He had plans to finish his Ph D. at the age of 55. My two siblings and I were all working our way through our undergraduate studies at different schools in California and the reality that my family home would be no longer had not really hit me yet. I was studying theater and film at a liberal arts college in Northern California.

          It was my first move far away from home, and I didn’t want to admit it to anyone in my new circles, but I was suffering badly from anxiety, depression and panic attacks. It was the early 2000’s and the emphasis on tending to our mental health was not as pronounced and accepted as it is today. Smartphones were not affordable, social media was not popularized, and the thought of posting anything even remotely vulnerable to my MySpace page or in internet chat rooms, was social suicide. The furthest me and my friends went with being open about our feelings were drunken nights ending in “I love you”s over late night drive through trips to Jack In the Box.

          You didn’t confess that you were going through something rough, in fear of being shamed, ridiculed, ignored, or worse, not invited to the next social event.

          Needless to say, when my parents announced that they were moving, I knew that things would change, I just didn’t know how my future housing insecurity would affect me emotionally.  I recall making the long drive home on the 5 freeway to L.A. for the first time when I no longer had a physical address. It was the summer of 2002 and I was going on break from school. I took a ride down with my college boyfriend knowing that when I got to my destination, I would not have a home to go to. My first year at the university, I had decided to share an on campus apartment with 4 other females in order to save money on commuting and car expenses (I didn’t have one) and also get the full college experience.

          I was a community college transfer student, so I felt like a Freshman, but had lived a hell of a lot of real life already at that point. This also meant that at the end of the term, I had to move out, because housing was assigned by year and my location for the next fall would not be the same if I choose to apply for on campus housing again. 

          So, there I was, bags in hand, back in Southern California, with almost 3 months ahead of me and nowhere to live. My anxiety was through the roof and the worst part was, I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, not even my boyfriend, because I felt so uncomfortable and burdensome. I was always taught by my Dad not to let strangers into our personal lives, that showing fear or uneasiness was a sign of weakness and that was dangerous because then I’d be a target for advantageous people, especially predatory men. I successfully found the means to share an apartment by waitressing tables at a diner and temporarily couch surfing for a few weeks prior.

          I was so grateful to have people in my life that offered me support, I will never forget their kindness. Unfortunately, I did not have the proper tools to improve my mental health and I looked to drugs and drinking to cope and all that did was put off my healing. Thankfully, as an older adult, I found therapy and a strong support circle of chosen family that showed me it’s okay to not be okay. I wish I would have known that there was help out there when I was young and unhoused, but I’m grateful that I’m able to share my story with the hope that it will save even one person from feeling like they have to tackle it alone. 

Reach out, someone is always there to support you on your journey.

-Written by D.A.