Stranger in my own land: Growing up homeless in San Francisco

My name is Anubi. I was born and raised in San Francisco. I am a formerly homeless transitional-age youth.

My story began in the late fall of 1993. I was the product of a last-ditch effort to save a failing marriage, and I felt it pretty early on. My brother took the ensuing divorce even harder because he was ten years older than me. Both of my parents are natives of the city, as are my mother’s parents and my brother.

I experienced my first episode of homelessness from when I was still in the womb until I was six months old. My mother is a pathological liar and told my father that she had a place to stay. In reality, she was living in her car until a nice couple with a six-month-old baby boy took her in. I was born that night at UCSF.

At six months old, my father claimed custody. I lived with him until I was about six years old. After that I lived with my mom in the city mostly, but we moved around in the Bay Area until I was about 14.

There were many times when we were without a house and resorted to couch surfing. I always went to school in the city though—that was the only constant in my life. I was a pretty bright student. That all changed when I was 15 years old.

I was 15 years old in February of 2009 when I tried weed for the first time. I started doing the regular teenage song and dance. Around this time I started hanging out on Haight and Castro. I’ll tell you, it was the best time of my life. Being on Haight was being a part of something magical, euphoric, and grand.

At some point in ‘09 I tried acid for the first time, which would eventually lead to my downfall. When I turned 16 I thought to myself, “I think I’m an adult. It’s time to start my life on my own.” My mother had cerebral palsy and could only walk with the assistance of two canes. I was tired of cleaning up her shit and piss. I needed to get out.

I had also come out as bisexual by that time, so I started living on Haight and Castro.  As someone who is bisexual, I naturally gravitated towards the Castro. As a hippie, I gravitated towards the Haight. I usually slept on random streets or at friends’ places, but never at shelters. I couldn’t stand them.

I’ll tell you, it’s hard being a teenage runaway in your own town. I got caught a lot at first, but then my family just stopped trying—mostly because of the frightful person I became when I was tripping—unless I was put in a mental hospital. It was my mother and once my brother who came to my aid, but my stays never lasted long.

Eventually I started traveling up and down the West Coast, but my trips would be short-lived. I spent most of my time in the city.

Now that I’ve provided you with some background info on myself, I can get to the real reason I endeavored to write this article. When I was sleeping on the street, it wasn’t the fact that I was sleeping on concrete or the fact that I got woken up at 7 a.m on a daily basis. It was the fact that I was ostracized in the city of my birth.

Wherever I would go, most people who were not homeless would have a genuine fear of me. I can still remember the fear I would see in their faces or the look of contempt. I would remember thinking about being raised on the ideal of universal acceptance. When I was homeless though, I would rarely see that ideal being practised.

For the longest time, I felt as though I was a stranger in my own land.