Editor’s note: the name of the individual in this story has been changed to protect their identity.
There are many reasons teens become homeless: unhealthy family dynamics, illness that makes it difficult or impossible to work, and inability to access resources are just a few. All three directly impacted Grace on her journey to the shelter where she is staying.
She moved around a lot growing up, so she’s no stranger to change.
She was kicked out at age 19 for coming out to her parents, “Idaho (where she was living at the time) is one of the worst places for LGBTQ+ people,” she said. “So is eastern Washington, I lived there, too.”
“They basically told me you can either live a normal life or you can just leave,” she said.
“Being attracted to the same sex shouldn’t be a not normal thing,” Grace said with a large sigh, as if it were a battle she was tired of fighting.
And she knows a thing or two about fighting as she struggles with: lupus, anxiety and potentially narcolepsy everyday.
“It’s really hard to keep a job when you have anxiety,” she said.
Before coming to a Salem shelter, she was living in Silverton with two roommates. She was doing well, and working a stable job, when the joint pain started.
“At first we thought it was arthritis,” she said, which would have been odd considering she’s only 21. After a stay in the emergency room she got her diagnosis – lupus, which is an inflammatory disease where the immune system attacks its own tissue. It is treatable, but not curable.
“They wanted to put me on amino suppressants but they’re like $10,000-$15,000 a year, I can’t afford that,” she said.
Because of her pain and condition she was unable to work. When her roommates moved out she was homeless once more.
“I was living in my car,” she said.
She is planning to move up to Seattle with her partner, who is working on getting an apartment.
She and her partner met on Discord and have known each other for about two years.
Discord is an application that is designed for communication between members of the video gaming community.
Grace wants to be an animator and is already exercising her creativity.
“Technically, I’m a published author,” she said. Her work was published after she won a national poetry competition.
She is also working on her first novel, based off her narcolepsy-induced nightmares. She wrote it in the science fiction-horror genre.
The novel took her eight years to write, but for the last three years she has had her publisher, advisor and printing company lined up.
Writing a novel is an impressive feat in and of itself, but Grace can only type about 36 words a minute due to her medical issues.
“Typing it down is a long process; especially when your hands don’t work so well,” she said.