When Carlos first came to live with us he was about 16. A friend of my son’s, he had a long history of family and housing instability and had been recently kicked out by his mom. As his informal host, I thought I did everything “right.” We already had a strong relationship; I met with his mom, laid out house rules and talked about his plans for the future.
What I didn’t take into account was the influence of all the systemic factors he battled on a daily basis. As a black woman, I understood the impact of racism, poverty and the other oppressions Carlos had to navigate. Understanding alone doesn’t prevent us from experiencing the harm.
As a young black man, there were concrete ways these frames played out in Carlos’ everyday life. He couldn’t get a job due to his felony, and even though he had a roof over his head and food in his belly, that wasn’t enough to prevent him from making money the way he knew how. Carlos also battled mental health issues due to childhood trauma; aside from anger management classes, there were very few resources for young black men to engage in healing. Finding housing was just the beginning of the support he needed.
Carlos stayed with us on and off for a few years. I heard rumors he had been getting in trouble and didn’t want to bring any negative traffic to our house. So, without giving me a lot of details, he decided it was time to move on. A few months later he was arrested for a robbery, and after a few probation violations and some new charges, served a couple of years in prison. He would call periodically. I thought of him often.
When Carlos was preparing for his release from prison, he struggled with finding a place to go. He paroled to a relative’s house and almost immediately showed up on our doorstep. He said, “There was too much going on over there Mama Stacey.” We hadn’t communicated as much as we would have liked while he was gone, but there was no way we were going to have him on the streets. Continue reading here: