As a child, my family moved around a lot. Because of that, my thinking was not always consistent or stable.

The memories of my childhood lists many addresses: By the time I was 10 years old, we had just moved to 46th and Market in a basement apartment. Prior to that, we lived with my great aunt in South Philly. Before that, we lived in the Southwark Projects, at 15th Christian and 4th south.

Hunger was a constant in my childhood. It seems like we never had enough food in my home. I went hungry a lot. My mother worked hard. During the day she was a teachers’ assistant at Nebinger Elementary School and at night she was a nursing assistant. She also received food stamps. It seemed that I was always worried about what we would eat and where we would sleep. In school I could not really concentrate because I was hungry and my clothes were dirty. I was always happy to go to school because I knew there would be food and I could eat. 

The adults in my life were too consumed with surviving instead of thriving. If your basic needs are not met, it creates many challenges. One day, my mother disappeared and I was homeless along with my two brothers and sister.  I became very depressed. I was hungry, homeless, and hopeless. My mind was in despair and as a child I did not know what to do. I prayed to God. I felt as though I could never get anything right. I was overly concerned with getting food and when we might have to move again.

My mind was messed up and I had no one to turn to for help. I was walking the streets and sometimes grown men would talk to me. 

Being homeless and hungry puts a person in a terrible state of mind, particularly a child. You can’t concentrate on anything and you are afraid because you have no adult around to care for you. 

School was no longer important to me, and the only thing you care about is getting something to eat and finding a safe place to sleep. I have come a long way from my chaotic childhood. I know  firsthand what it is like to be homeless, hungry, and hopeless. I am so thankful I no longer have to live that way. 

What helped me during this difficult time were my aunt and books. As a youth and adult I read stories of how others overcame obstacles and conquered challenges. Here are some of the books that helped me: 

  • The Diary of Anne Frank
  • The Autobiography of Malcom X
  • Oliver Twist
  • Man in the Iron Mask
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Victor Frankel
  • Why Bad things happen to good people by a Rabbi
  • I know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • The Autobiography of Booker T. Washington
  • The Story of Helen Keller

We need to create safe places to help youth experiencing homelessness and a hotline. A hub where they could go or call to get the services they need, including support groups.

About the Author: Imani Badie has a degree in business and certificates in advocacy, parenting, and leadership. She is a Community Recovery Specialist at Girard Medical Center. Her interests are history and reading. Imani uses her lived and professional experience to help those challenged by adversity.