I left home because of problems with my stepfather. There were heavy words exchanged between me and him constantly, and my mother and I didn't really have a relationship at all. I just threw a few things into a duffel bag and walked out. I was willing to sleep on the street rather than stay there.
I ended up at my cousin's house and stayed there for a couple weeks, but when I realized that I could never go back to my mom's place, it hit me that I was homeless. I went through a transitional program
[a state-funded program that helps runaways become independent
], and now I have my own place and I work for a cell-phone company, selling phones and doing customer service.
I was born in Hungary and adopted when I was seven by American parents. I started getting in trouble all the time when I was a teenager, for a lot of lying and stealing. The incident that led me here was stealing my dad's car one night and going on a joyride. It was a Chrysler Town and Country and I sideswiped a parked truck and just destroyed the passenger side of it. In the aftermath of that, which was really, really bad, I had to leave home.
I would fight a lot, mostly because of the home life I had. My mom was conceited and ritualistic. My stepdad was a workaholic, and he never stepped out of his home office for even a second. I have ADHD and depression, but I was doing the best I could living with them. One day I got so pissed that I punched a hole in the wall, and they called the cops on me. I took off soon after that. They drove me to the point where I had to leave. I refuse to speak to my parents now, even when they call me here.
I had to leave home because my stepfather was sexually abusive—touching me and stuff. I told my grandma and then DYFS
[New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services]
placed me with her. But she and I didn't get along at all, and I ended up in transitional living. This was when I was like 14 or 15. Now I'm out of the program and living on my own. I have a son, too. He's 18 months old now.
I ran away from a bad foster home. I felt like being alone would be the safest haven for me. I ended up living in a rented room with a minimum wage job, struggling everyday to get back and forth. I was determined to pursue independence, but I wanted to be able to be young without having to think of nothing but bills all the time. I found the transitional living program when my boss found out what my situation was and helped me get into it. Now I'm going to school, doing a double major in sociology and psychology with a minor in accounting. After this, I want to go for my masters.
The first time I realized my mother was on drugs, I was about seven years old. She and my dad both got into crack cocaine. Me and my brother lived with her, and her drug abuse had us bouncing from city to city and state to state. I ended up living in several group homes and foster homes. I was even adopted for a while. I finally made it into a transitional program in my senior year of high school, and it was a blessing. It saved my life.
I never met my father. I was raised by my mother and my older sister. Unfortunately, my mother is really involved with her religious beliefs. She's a strict Hindu and she doesn't believe that we're her children. She says that we're God's children. That didn't lead to her being a very good mother. My sister ended up a lot less stable than I am. I bounced around from boyfriends' houses and various places. When I found myself with nowhere to go, I went to my boss and he recommended me to a program. It was great—it got me off the streets. Now I'm in my final year of school for architecture and living with my boyfriend on an army base near here. I haven't spoken to my mother since I left.
Runaway Fashion Credits
Right now, there are almost three million runaway and homeless kids living on the streets of America. If you are a runaway and need help, call the National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-621-4000.
Marisa Fazzina for PrettyPretty cosmetics
Hoodie by Left Field /
Jacket, pants, and scarf by Cloak; sneakers by Miskeen Originals
Seamless shirt by One True Saxon
Jacket by Oliver Spencer; hoodie by Energie; shirt by Scion; hat by Split
T-shirt by Indigo People; pants by JNCO Jeans; sneakers by Hawk
Dress by Diesel, worn over dress by Liz Collins
T-shirt by Salvor; dress by Miss Sixty
Sweater by Energie
Hoodie and pants by Yoko Devereaux; jacket by Energie; boots by Timberland
Vintage army jacket; T-shirt by Miss Sixty; web top by Heatherette; pants by Humanity
Jacket by Paul & Joe; T-shirt by United Bamboo; jeans by Diesel; sneakers by Nike
Triple 5 Soul and Split also donated clothing to this shoot.