When I was a child, I could have never expected for our family to become homeless. My early childhood was the appropriate level of normal and dysfunctional. I fought with my siblings, but we also played together every day in the field outside of our house. Financially speaking, my parents couldn’t always say yes, but we always had Christmas, birthdays, and the occasional candy bar while checking out at the grocery store. Then, suddenly something changed. At first it was little things like introducing food stamps, or mom and dad started yelling more. It did not take long before we were bouncing from one hotel to the next or sleeping in our van. The stability of a childhood home was replaced with extreme uncertainty and fear.
People don’t want to talk about family homelessness because it is scary and unsightly. It isn’t something that should be happening in a first world country. However, every single day, families find themselves with nowhere to call home.
Even though my experience as a child inspired me to become an advocate for the homeless, I did so much more in the function of an ally rather than someone who had been in the trenches. The stigma that comes with homelessness is deep and in many ways I feared that sharing my own story would hurt my cause more than help it. However, after more than a decade of social activism, I realize that true change only comes through public awareness and talking about the deep dark reality of any issue.
After writing my book, Chasing the Mouse, which chronicles my experience of childhood homelessness, Tashina and I decided as a family that we needed to do something more to raise awareness, and it could also be a way to find a solution. We are going to build a tiny house specifically designed for a family and move into it. We want to show that there are cheap and sustainable ways to address family homelessness. We know that tiny homes aren’t for everyone, but we have to start the conversation somewhere.
Though sharing my story in my book and this experiment of our family moving into a tiny house, I want to start the conversation of how our country will address the issues of family homelessness. I don’t have all the answers, but I am finally willing to ask the question.
You can help fund the Family Tiny House Project and awareness campaign here!