Mersadez lives with her mum, Stephanie and little sister Dahlia in a little dorm room. But ever since her mum Stephanie was in a serious car accident she has been unable to work or study, so now they have to move.
At five o’clock one morning, Mersadez packs her clothes, schoolbooks and toys into a van that her mum rented. The family has nowhere to go, so they have to sleep in the van for almost a week.
“There was no room to lie down, so we sat and slept in the seats,” recalls Mersadez. “The next morning we used the toilets in shops and at McDonald’s to brush our teeth and wash.”
Mersadez had experienced homelessness many times before, but this was the worst yet because they had to live in the van.
“It was scary,” says Mersadez. “For the first time, I lost all hope. I thought we’d never have a home of our own. That nothing would ever be good again.”
After a bit less than a week the family moved into a motel that had been converted into a shelter.
“Then we moved a lot, until we arrived at the motel where we live now, in one room with a kitchenette. We’ve been here for two years. Everyone else who lives here is also homeless. Mum prefers us not to leave the room after school. She has always tried to protect us as much as she can,” says Mersadez.
Over two million children in the US are currently homeless, sometimes because their parents lose their jobs and can’t pay the rent. Others have a parent who is escaping a violent partner. Mersadez’s mum had a difficult upbringing herself. Sometimes she still feels so low because of her own childhood that she can’t work and bring money in.
During Covid, Mersadez and Dahlia had remote lessons via the internet for a long period. It was tough being locked in the motel room almost 24 hours a day and trying to keep up with school. Mersadez had help then with her schoolwork from an organization called School on Wheels, which was set up by WCP Child Rights Hero Agnes Stevens.
“I’m doing well now and can also help my little sister.”
Represents children who are homeless and stands up for other children experiencing homelessness.
Text & Photo: Carmilla Floyd