Dylan Chidick, who is class president at his Jersey City, New Jersey high school, went through a bout of homelessness in 2017. He kept his housing struggles a secret from his classmates; however, his schooling was greatly affected.
In a recent Washington Post article, Dylan described his time at a New Jersey homeless shelter as “really scary.” The shelter’s dangerous environment and restrictive rules caused his grades to slip. According to the Washington Post, “The shelter disrupted his studies, with curfews butting with his habit of doing homework late into the night.” The scholar is also quoted as saying: “I was so focused on never getting back in that situation, that I was just — my studies took a hit… This senior year, I made a pact like: Get straight A’s again.”
After his family secured housing in 2017, Dylan was able to keep his pact. He has thus far been accepted to 18 colleges. Dylan Chidick’s goal is to become an attorney. After being left “shaken” by his experience with homelessness, he plans to dedicate his career to increasing the amount of justice in the world.
In regards to his bout with homelessness, the young king said, “I’m not going to let that one part define me.”
Congratulations! Keep shining young king!
One of the greatest exhales of my life was securing housing after going through homelessness. Unfortunately, however, my relief was short-lived. My expectations and celebration was too quickly shattered when I secured a great apartment in a great neighborhood, but soon found out that my living conditions in said apartment would leave me trapped in an environment that mirrored housing shelter conditions in a very detrimental way.
My new dwelling has been plagued with a sickening, potent drug aroma that rivals the one that was ever-present in the New York City homeless shelters; the same potent drug aroma that caused me to develop smoke-related asthma.
As a newly-created asthma sufferer, thanks to the NYC shelter system, I was especially ecstatic when I secured my new apartment because all through the interview process, it was stressed to me that a no smoking and drug use policy would be strictly enforced by the building’s management. The management company’s admonitions made me believe that I was moving into a “smoke-free environment.” However, instead, I had just signed a lease for an apartment with an environment that, like the NYC homeless shelters, caused: illness, missed days of work due to illness, and the use of an inordinate amount of days to try to get the apartment’s management company to enforce the terms of the lease that barred smoking and drug use on the premises.
It took me approximately a year and a half of phone calls, letter writing, and networking to even make a dent in solving this issue. The problem was so severe that my apartment was constantly inundated with a potent drug aroma like someone was sitting on my couch doing drugs.
I found myself spending the majority of my days documenting what I was experiencing and reaching out for solutions the same way I had to when I was living under the horrifying conditions of the NYC shelter system. I am still trying to make further inroads in dealing with this toxic conundrum. I still have more work to do to ensure that I am living in a healthy, decent environment.
The last few years of my life has been a living, breathing testament to what happens when the basic necessity of shelter is lacking, contaminated, or in limbo.
A lack of decent housing has a domino effect that touches every area of a person’s life, with unexpected nuances that have to be experienced to be fully understood.
My fight for decent housing did not end when my bout with homelessness ended. I am still engaged in that battle. It is an exhausting one. I have experienced battle fatigue, but I have gathered my second wind. I will continue to share my experiences; part catharsis, part helping hand, part empowerment.
Stay strong; New York Strong.
-The Homeless New Yorker
This week, the New York Daily News reported that Mr. Sherman Jackson has officially exited the New York City homeless shelter system. After over a year in the system, he is now, reportedly, the resident of a Brooklyn-located studio apartment.
This is great news!! I’ve been following Mr. Jackson’s story in the press. I’m so happy to hear that he now has a safe place to live. No one deserves to live under the horrendous NYC shelter conditions.
Well-renowned financial guru, Suze Orman went through a period of homelessness during her young adulthood.
In her book, “The Money Book For The Young, Fabulous, and Broke,” she recounts: “As I write this section, I am sitting in my south Florida home, staring out at the Atlantic Ocean. yet what keeps popping into my mind is the Ford Ecoline van I lived in when I first arrived in Berkeley, California, in the mid-1970s. Yes, yours truly lived in a van because I couldn’t afford to rent an apartment, or even a room. I couldn’t even afford the van; my brother loaned me the money for it.”
AMARA LA NEGRA: I was homeless at some point in my life, and a lot of people don’t know that.
HOLLYWOOD UNLOCKED: Not sleeping on the street?
AMARA LA NEGRA: Well, sleeping in my car for 2 months outside of McDonalds… And I would go there because it’s 24 hours; and wash up with wipies and stuff, and leave out of the car looking fabulous, and you would never know that I’m struggling; I’m so hungry. You would never know.
HOLLYWOOD UNLOCKED: It takes a lot of courage to admit that though…
AMARA LA NEGRA: You know what? I do it too because I want to be real. I want to be honest about it.
My life hasn’t always been perfect. I don’t do it because I want anybody to feel pity for me. It’s my truth, and all these things build the character and the woman I am today.
A year ago, yesterday, I exited the New York City homeless shelter system. Being in the homeless shelter system was a life-changing experience for me. The New York City homeless shelter system seems to have a lot of similarities with the prison system. People who are in the homeless shelter system for a bevy of reasons, including upstanding citizens who have fell victim to New York City’s vicious cycle of gentrification, are treated like inmates; basically, dehumanized and “institutionalized.”
It’s a process to mentally, emotionally, and physically shake off the despicable trauma of the NYC homeless shelter system. When I read Wu Tang Klan’s U-God’s memoir, a passage in the tome regarding adjusting to life after incarceration reminded me of adjusting to life after being homeless.
In his book, “Raw: My Journey Into The Wu-Tang,” U-God states: “You need about the same amount of time back in the world as you served in jail. If you did three years inside, you’re gonna need three years outside to get your head on straight. You have to catch up with the world that’s kept moving on while you’ve been separated from it. You aren’t just gonna walk out the gate and pick up your life right where you left off. You gotta readjust yourself, reestablish your routines, and above all, get used to the freedom of not being locked up, because that’s one of the biggest things every convict has to overcome.”
Despite the traumatic and extremely negative experiences I had in the NYC homeless shelter system, I appreciate what I learned and experienced there. My experiences in that system armed me with a effective and potent tool for helping others. I will never forget what I experienced, and I will not stop speaking out about it until things are changed, and greater numbers of people are helped.
To commemorate my anniversary, I have set some new personal goals. Me and my husband will also go to a shelter this weekend and give back, directly, to the people.
Lots of Love,
-The Homeless New Yorker