Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Sirus is a homeless youth in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is shown above pointing out the scars he received from being assaulted by law enforcement in a squat he was living in. They came in at night when they were sleeping, he told us. They threatened to stab one of them in the stomach if they didn't start moving on and the violence began.
As you can see from the photo above, Sirus lives completely outdoors, carrying everything he owns on his back. We filmed the "dogs" and "frill lines", (a chain hooked to the belt with a carabiner that holds a multi-tool, a knife, a flashlight, mace, silverware, army issue can openers, and other survival tools), that he and some other homeless youth carry to protect themselves and survive outdoors.
Many homeless youth also carry "talismans" full of "trinkets", (little hand-made bags that hold small items that are very meaningful to them). Some youth attach these trinkets and also patches that they have hand-made onto their clothes, securing them with dental floss. In the more urban cities, homeless youth segregate themselves into different tribes. Each tribe has their own way of expressing themselves. They often identify one another through the symbols and "gear" that they are sporting.
We may never see Sirus again. He was heading to Portland a few days before we were leaving for Seattle. Maybe we will run into him as we walk toward San Francisco. Maybe we will somehow meet up on our way back through Utah. No matter what, I hope we see him again.
Speaking with him made me wonder how I was going to let go of all these youth as I walk across America. His stories were my stories and our memories unfolded like twin tapestries across a generational divide. After seven years of finally having a home myself, I look back and it's still happening. Will it be happening ten years from now? Only we can decide that.
These youth need us to take a national stand. We have the power to end youth homelessness not just help them to survive. We have the power to say enough. Let's not let another decade pass without doing everything we can. If our nation does not start treating youth homelessness as the epidemic it is, we will see another generation lost to our nation's inability to take responsibility for its lack of complete and unified Social Justice.
Notation: Unfortunately we lost 22 hours of footage, which includes all of the filming we did of the homeless youth in Utah. We will be filming them again on our way back through Utah in July.