Family ties are stronger than adversity

Commentary by Jalen Cole

Nov. 3, 2015

When I was a little kid, I was too young to know why my father and I always spent the night at his friend’s house. You may look at me as just another college student, but you’d never know that I was once homeless in my life. Yes, it’s true; my closest friends don’t even know this about me. I feel like this is something that I need to get out of my system because it’s been eating me alive for a long time.

My dad struggled just like a lot of war veterans did, but he always made sure that I was taken care of throughout my life. I remember the harsh living conditions the house was in, but it was a place to lay our heads at night. One night my dad’s friend got arrested, so we were unable to sleep in his house. We had to stay with another one of his friends for the night. I was only a little kid, but these are some things I will never forget. You’re probably asking, why didn’t you just stay with your mother?

My dad had full custody of me at that time, and I always wanted to be with my dad as a kid, so it was pretty difficult for my dad to leave me anywhere without him being there. My mother has always been there for me; I love her more than anything. I’m not afraid to admit my mom dealt with addiction in the past, which caused us not to have much of a relationship. Of course, our relationship is stronger today because she has turned her life around.

I always asked my dad why it was hard to ask for help, and he gives me that same story. “It’s all about pride,” he would say. “A man never should struggle to provide for their family.”

Five months after being homeless, my dad finally found a one-bedroom apartment. Shortly after moving in, my grandfather told my grandmother to call my dad; they offered to help my mom and dad take care of me. My dad felt good about the fact that my grandfather wanted to help him. When I arrived at my grandparents’ house, I felt more at home than anywhere I’ve been before. Maybe it was the way my grandparents treated me. It felt as if they filled a void in my life. I felt like a normal kid with a mom and dad under the same roof.

My grandmother played a major role in my life. I credit her for saving me from a lot of situations that I’ve been in, including being homeless. She’s the reason why I’m in college, because of the way she pushed me in school.

Being homeless isn’t anything to brag about, but it’s something I’ll never forget. I think about it every day, because that’s a time in my life that I wouldn’t want to relive again. Being homeless has molded me and taught me a lot. I am able to deal with adversity, I have the confidence to overcome obstacles, and I am motivated to be successful after college.

I made a promise to my grandma before she passed; I told her I’m going to make sure I never have to relive being homeless again, and I know I will keep my word.