World without walls

The main worry for most students travelling to college from their hometowns is sharing their world essentially with a complete stranger. This seems like a bother until compared to sharing a space no bigger than a Palmetto apartment with two or three families. Unfortunately, this is the world that many homeless people are forced to live in.

As the U.S. economy turns,the rates of unemployment and homelessness rise. In Tallahassee alone, there are three different homeless shelters and coalitions.

For Julian Wood from D.C., homelessness is a distant memory he wants to put behind him.

“It felt like jail,” the 19-year-old psychology student said. “I never want to go back.”

After his parents separated when he was eight years old, he, his mother, two older brothers, younger brother and younger sister were forced to live in a women’s care shelter. Wood said that male children over the age of 13 were not allowed, so his two brothers were forced to stay with his grandparents.

“We stayed at the shelter for maybe three to five months,” said Wood. “It felt like a year.”

Wood said the shelter he stayed in had four beds per room, usually with an entire family sharing a bed, as was the case with him. Before his family got back on its feet, they moved to another shelter with better conditions and more accommodations for children.

Because there is no way to fully account for this epidemic, the true number of homeless people cannot be accurately determined. Despite this, it is well understood that the number of homeless people at any given time exceeds space available to accommodate them.

In 2003, a total of 703 people in Tallahassee reported having no regular place to stay or expected to be forced to leave their home within the next week without another place to go. Almost half (46 percent) of the city’s homeless were children, younger than 18.

Tallahassee has several shelters such as CARE Tallahassee, Haven of Rest Rescue Mission, and The Chelsea House.

In a study of homelessness in 50 cities conducted by the National Coalition for the Homeless, it was discovered that virtually every city’s official estimated number of homeless people greatly exceeded the number of emergency shelter and transitional housing spaces available. 

In a survey of 23 cities, 70 percent of people living in homeless shelters were single adults, while the remaining 30 percent was comprised of families and unaccompanied minors. In 12 of these cities, shelters were forced to turn people away.

Though it was trying, Wood said the experience helped to mold him into the man he is today; a circumstance for which he is ultimately grateful.

“If anything, it made me appreciate my own stuff,” said Wood. “I never knew what it was like to have something that was only mine until I got to college.”