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Op-Ed: My Journey with Homelessness

Updated: Jun 5



Mari Brooks, Breaktime Associate, with Connor Schoen, Breaktime Co-Founder and Executive Director, at Launchpad graduation in front of a Breaktime backdrop.

When I first became “homeless,” I was 16 years old, and it was because I was having a lot of issues at home. The situation was very abusive, so I made the decision to leave and call DCF on myself. For a little while, I was in an emergency foster home; from there, I got an opportunity to transfer to a foster home. I was living with a friend, and DCF worked with us to make it so that her mom could become my foster parent. And that worked out until I was 18. That’s when my story of homelessness kind of got worse.


My friend and her mom didn’t really want me with them anymore. A week before my 18th birthday, they kicked me out and brought all my stuff to the DCF headquarters. I was kind of just left to figure everything out. And because I wasn’t really a minor anymore, they couldn’t just put me into another foster home. At that point, I had to figure something else out.


I lived in shelters for a little while, but that felt really dangerous. It was a little bit after COVID, so I didn’t feel comfortable being in and out of shelters all the time. I got sick once, and it was really bad. After that, I was just like, ‘I need to try something safer.’ Thankfully, I got to stay with friends for a couple of days at a time. I was kind of couch-hopping, just trying to figure something out while being on waitlists for group homes.


I eventually got into a group home, and that worked out for six months. It was a really good group home for LGBTQ youth, but the way that they did the roommate system was confusing. Living there got uncomfortable after a while because they kept putting me in rooms with boys. It was uncomfortable. I would’ve rather been in a room with somebody who identified as a girl. After a while, I ran away from the group home because of that, on top of other things. Like, they liked to lock the kitchen at certain times. I stayed after school a lot, and so sometimes I would get home after they locked the kitchen. There would be days when I wouldn’t eat at all when I was at home. That was really difficult.


After I left the group home, I started couch-hopping again. I wanted to feel more comfortable. I felt like if I was going to have to share a room with somebody, I’d rather them be my friend. I just wanted to feel more comfortable, especially with everything that I was going through. More stress just wasn’t really what I was looking for. After couch hopping for a while, I ended up being able to rent a room in a house that one of my friends was living in.


I just wanted to feel more comfortable, especially with everything that I was going through. More stress just wasn’t really what I was looking for.

Since I was desperately trying to find a place to live and find resources, I was signing up for everything. Somewhere along the line, I signed up for Breaktime. It kind of just popped up at the right time in my life, honestly.


When I came to Breaktime, I [immediately] felt very welcome here because our facilitator was trans and was always wearing prideful swag. There would be times when we would accidentally use the wrong pronouns, and he was very kind and educational in the way that he corrected us. I felt like this was a safe place. If it wasn’t, I don’t think he’d be working here.


Breaktime gave me a really good foundation of knowledge when it comes to being prepared to show up in workplaces as a professional. My Liftoff placement is at the Daily Table, which is a grocery store-run nonprofit whose goal is to bring fresh food to low-income areas. I’m hoping that I can move up within that organization and learn more about how it works.


I feel like Breaktime really prepared me for a positive future in terms of employment and housing.

I really appreciate [Breaktime] for taking the time to educate us on how to act in a workplace and how to know if the workplace isn’t doing the right thing, as well as what to do about it. One of the things I was hoping to gain from Breaktime is more confidence in workplaces. I’ve definitely gained that skill, and because of that, I can feel more comfortable when working. Being a good worker can lead to a good, stable job, and a good, stable job can lead to stable living. Because of that, I feel like Breaktime really prepared me for a positive future in terms of employment and housing.

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Jul 03
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Esla Amber
Esla Amber
Jun 20

Your resilience and determination in overcoming such challenging circumstances is truly inspiring. Despite facing homelessness at such a young age, you managed to navigate through an incredibly difficult situation with strength and courage. Your story highlights the importance of perseverance and hope, serving as a powerful reminder that even in the toughest times, there is the potential to find a path forward. hill climb racing

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