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How Being Homeless Made Me Feel More At Home Than Ever Before

Warning: This story mentions domestic abuse which could be triggering to some readers.

Home. A simple word and concept, but one that carries more weight and meaning for me than anything else before.

Homeless. A heartbreak like no other. Worse than that of a breakup, maybe. No sense of belonging and an incredibly depressing absence of comfort and care.

When I was younger, I used to think that a perfect family dynamic was what would make me feel whole. I thought that if I had the perfect mom and dad who loved each other and the perfect siblings, I would be happy and I would feel complete. As a child, I wrote Christmas lists asking Santa for siblings and prayed to God that my parents would fall in love again. I told myself that if I had my family all under one roof, everything would be okay.

The reality of the situation is: I’ll never know. I don’t know what it’s like to sit down and have dinner with both of your parents. I don’t know what it’s like to go to Disney World and ride teacups with mom and dad, blow out birthday candles with mom and dad, be held at the same time by mom and dad.

I also used to think that home was something you called a place with four walls and a roof overhead, a few bedrooms, a kitchen, a backyard. Home was a place, simply.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

In high school, I lived in a big stone house with a pretty oak front door and a shiny chandelier that dangled in the window. It was pretty and looked nice and I called it home, but the inside was different. It felt cold and dark, despite the warm bright light of the chandelier. It felt loud but also quiet and isolating. It felt unsafe, and worst of all, it felt dangerous.

I can still hear the cries of my sister telling her dad to stop yelling. I can hear the slam of bedroom doors. I can feel my heart racing as I went to lock my door. I felt my sister’s hand in mine as I held her until it was over.

Suddenly, that house wasn’t as pretty as it used to be. And just as quickly as it deteriorated from the inside out, it was no longer a home but a house.

After my mom decided we were finally leaving her ex, my half-sister’s dad, I lived with a close friend for a few months, while my mom and sister lived with another family friend. Our already fractured family broke down even more, and I felt completely alone and isolated.

In September of 2020, another close friend of mine reached out and told me that her mom found out what our family had been experiencing. They were offering to let us stay with them. They were offering to let us live with them. What they were doing was offering us a chance at home.

As a 19-year-old college student, you’d think my favorite activities wouldn’t be limited to family game nights and Sunday dinners, but with the Glass family, and in the middle of a pandemic, I couldn’t have been happier. 

There was the bedroom I would sleep over in on weekends during high school, the kitchen I’d make late night snacks in, and the basement that hosted Bachelor watch parties. Seamlessly, Gibson Road became my home. 

In my old house, most family nights were spoiled by arguments and slammed doors. With the Glass family, weekday mornings felt like weekends. There was no sense of dread that consumed me when I came downstairs in the morning, just peace and comfort. 

I woke up one day in Gabby’s room and could hear her two younger twin sisters upstairs laughing. I remember taking a deep breath, closing my eyes, and snuggling deeper into the comfort of the covers. It wasn’t a permanent fix, but it was definitely home for now.

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Kiley Smyth

U Mass Amherst '23

Kiley is a Junior at UMass Amherst studying Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations. She is also pursuing a certificate in Film Studies!
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