February 2017:  Dakota, 20, became homeless at age 16. Living in Hannibal, Mo., Dakota says he started doing a drug known as K2, or synthetic marijuana. When his father found out, Dakota says he kicked him out of the house. “He pretty much disowned me,” Dakota said. “Being poor and homeless teaches you how to survive.” Dakota says he came to Quincy involuntarily from Hannibal. “I was in the psych ward at Blessing Hospital for about two months. After I got out I didn’t really have anywhere else to go so I decided to stay in Quincy where I just roamed the streets and slept in abandoned houses. I tried anything I could to survive and find food.” Dakota says he relied on Horizons Soup Kitchen for food during the weekdays and Ladies of Charity to receive free, used but clean clothing each month to replace his dirty clothes which he had to wear for an entire month at a time because he couldn’t afford to do laundry. “You know, when you’re walking around, I mean you’re walking around in 103, 104 degrees heat and you can’t clean yourself. You can’t clean your clothes.”

February 2017: Dakota, 20, became homeless at age 16. Living in Hannibal, Mo., Dakota says he started doing a drug known as K2, or synthetic marijuana. When his father found out, Dakota says he kicked him out of the house. “He pretty much disowned me,” Dakota said. “Being poor and homeless teaches you how to survive.” Dakota says he came to Quincy involuntarily from Hannibal. “I was in the psych ward at Blessing Hospital for about two months. After I got out I didn’t really have anywhere else to go so I decided to stay in Quincy where I just roamed the streets and slept in abandoned houses. I tried anything I could to survive and find food.” Dakota says he relied on Horizons Soup Kitchen for food during the weekdays and Ladies of Charity to receive free, used but clean clothing each month to replace his dirty clothes which he had to wear for an entire month at a time because he couldn’t afford to do laundry. “You know, when you’re walking around, I mean you’re walking around in 103, 104 degrees heat and you can’t clean yourself. You can’t clean your clothes.”

February 2017:  “When I very first became homeless I was into the heavier drugs. I did try to commit suicide many times because I was afraid of what being homeless would and did entail," Dakota said. “I tried everything from K2 to injecting heroin. Homelessness leads to a lot of different things because you tried to find anything and everything to take you away from that current situation, to take just the vision of knowing that you don’t have anything or anyone at that point in time. It’s rather sad because you know you shouldn’t even feel like you have to turn to something so detrimental not only to your health but to everyone around you as well. I mean, being homeless, honestly the only thing I really did most of the time was to try find a cigarette and try to find a way to get high because I was so dissatisfied with my situation and how bad it was. I didn’t know any way out.”

February 2017: “When I very first became homeless I was into the heavier drugs. I did try to commit suicide many times because I was afraid of what being homeless would and did entail," Dakota said. “I tried everything from K2 to injecting heroin. Homelessness leads to a lot of different things because you tried to find anything and everything to take you away from that current situation, to take just the vision of knowing that you don’t have anything or anyone at that point in time. It’s rather sad because you know you shouldn’t even feel like you have to turn to something so detrimental not only to your health but to everyone around you as well. I mean, being homeless, honestly the only thing I really did most of the time was to try find a cigarette and try to find a way to get high because I was so dissatisfied with my situation and how bad it was. I didn’t know any way out.”

February 2017:  Dakota and Skyler wait outside for the Horizons Soup Kitchen to open for lunch. “Horizons Soup Kitchen did a lot to help us with food. They’re not open on the weekends, but Salem Church serves food on Saturdays. As far as Sunday is concerned, you better save up some food during the week, or you’ll go without. An organization that didn’t really help and I even ended up begging them for help and I hate to say this, but was the Salvation Army,” Dakota said. Dakota said he asked the Salvation Army for rent assistance or help with anything to try and get a roof over his head. “They did not help at all and I wanted to stay at their shelter. I can understand them being full, or them having literally no vacancies or anything. I didn’t receive any kind of assistance from them. Even a coat would have been nice.” Instead, Dakota turned to The Ladies of Charity who provided clothing. “Without them, we wouldn’t have had coats to get through the winter. Catholic Charities did a lot for us too. They did a lot more of the infant type aid, like baby formula and clothes.”

February 2017: Dakota and Skyler wait outside for the Horizons Soup Kitchen to open for lunch. “Horizons Soup Kitchen did a lot to help us with food. They’re not open on the weekends, but Salem Church serves food on Saturdays. As far as Sunday is concerned, you better save up some food during the week, or you’ll go without. An organization that didn’t really help and I even ended up begging them for help and I hate to say this, but was the Salvation Army,” Dakota said. Dakota said he asked the Salvation Army for rent assistance or help with anything to try and get a roof over his head. “They did not help at all and I wanted to stay at their shelter. I can understand them being full, or them having literally no vacancies or anything. I didn’t receive any kind of assistance from them. Even a coat would have been nice.” Instead, Dakota turned to The Ladies of Charity who provided clothing. “Without them, we wouldn’t have had coats to get through the winter. Catholic Charities did a lot for us too. They did a lot more of the infant type aid, like baby formula and clothes.”

February 2017:  Dakota reaches out to touch Skylar’s stomach, as she is now pregnant. “Throughout her entire pregnancy it was hard to find food, especially for myself. I made sure that those two, her and my son, were provided for but at much expense physically to myself, mentally and emotionally even. There were days when I’d have to go one to two, sometimes three days without eating just so I didn’t take up more food than we’d had,” Dakota said. “I lost, I don’t know, 60-70 pounds. I went from almost 200 pounds at one time to 133 now. The longest that I ever went without food was just under two weeks. After the first couple of days of not eating your stomach will start to have that cramp. Then there will be vomiting and diarrhea and it steadily gets worse.” Dakota said that at one point he resorted to eating his fingernails. “You know, when people walk by you and see you in that state and just walk by like it’s part of your everyday routine it’s ridiculous. I can remember crying and just looking like a concentration camp survivor at that point. I can remember eating things that I don’t necessarily think the average person would eat including leftover food, leftover garbage, whatever I needed after not being able to find anything especially in the wintertime. That is the very worst time to not have food when you’re homeless,” Dakota said. Homeless, struggling for food and shelter Dakota recounts winter hardships. “It didn’t matter how much I put on or how much old clothes I found, there was no way to keep warm. You start to shiver and shake. You can’t keep your hands still anymore. You can’t even concentrate or think when you’re that hungry. It’s an absolutely horrid experience that I don’t think anyone on earth should have to experience, ever.”

February 2017: Dakota reaches out to touch Skylar’s stomach, as she is now pregnant. “Throughout her entire pregnancy it was hard to find food, especially for myself. I made sure that those two, her and my son, were provided for but at much expense physically to myself, mentally and emotionally even. There were days when I’d have to go one to two, sometimes three days without eating just so I didn’t take up more food than we’d had,” Dakota said. “I lost, I don’t know, 60-70 pounds. I went from almost 200 pounds at one time to 133 now. The longest that I ever went without food was just under two weeks. After the first couple of days of not eating your stomach will start to have that cramp. Then there will be vomiting and diarrhea and it steadily gets worse.” Dakota said that at one point he resorted to eating his fingernails. “You know, when people walk by you and see you in that state and just walk by like it’s part of your everyday routine it’s ridiculous. I can remember crying and just looking like a concentration camp survivor at that point. I can remember eating things that I don’t necessarily think the average person would eat including leftover food, leftover garbage, whatever I needed after not being able to find anything especially in the wintertime. That is the very worst time to not have food when you’re homeless,” Dakota said. Homeless, struggling for food and shelter Dakota recounts winter hardships. “It didn’t matter how much I put on or how much old clothes I found, there was no way to keep warm. You start to shiver and shake. You can’t keep your hands still anymore. You can’t even concentrate or think when you’re that hungry. It’s an absolutely horrid experience that I don’t think anyone on earth should have to experience, ever.”

February 2017:  Dakota leaves the apartment that he shares with friends that took Skyler and him in for a few months. Previously, Dakota was living in an empty house that was up for sale until he was discovered by the owner. Soon after, Dakota says he was stabbed and robbed on the north side of Quincy which led to a bad infection and weeks of struggling to survive. “I got stabbed while I was sitting down smoking a cigarette,” said Dakota of the event. “When I got stabbed, I kind of fell back onto the sidewalk. I was more in shock than in pain. And, of course, the amount of blood. I couldn’t move my leg, so I dragged myself back to the abandoned house I was staying in. I was laying there on this couch that probably had more bedbugs in it than this entire earth. I had blood all over my leg, all over my jeans. It was running into my shoe. I got some water and table salt mixed together to clean the wound and covered it up with a dirty sock as a bandage. That worked for a little while until an infection settled in. Then I had to go to the hospital. I didn’t tell them exactly what happened,” Dakota said. “You know, being homeless, it’s a never-ending struggle. Once you do start to finally improve your life, you start to look back on it with fear, I mean definitely with respect. You look back and you think I don’t ever want to be there again.”

February 2017: Dakota leaves the apartment that he shares with friends that took Skyler and him in for a few months. Previously, Dakota was living in an empty house that was up for sale until he was discovered by the owner. Soon after, Dakota says he was stabbed and robbed on the north side of Quincy which led to a bad infection and weeks of struggling to survive. “I got stabbed while I was sitting down smoking a cigarette,” said Dakota of the event. “When I got stabbed, I kind of fell back onto the sidewalk. I was more in shock than in pain. And, of course, the amount of blood. I couldn’t move my leg, so I dragged myself back to the abandoned house I was staying in. I was laying there on this couch that probably had more bedbugs in it than this entire earth. I had blood all over my leg, all over my jeans. It was running into my shoe. I got some water and table salt mixed together to clean the wound and covered it up with a dirty sock as a bandage. That worked for a little while until an infection settled in. Then I had to go to the hospital. I didn’t tell them exactly what happened,” Dakota said. “You know, being homeless, it’s a never-ending struggle. Once you do start to finally improve your life, you start to look back on it with fear, I mean definitely with respect. You look back and you think I don’t ever want to be there again.”

“You know, when you’re walking around, I mean you’re walking around in 103, 104 degrees heat and you can’t clean yourself. You can’t clean your clothes.”
— Dakota
February 2017:  Using the bathroom in some friend’s apartment, Dakota and Skyler color each other’s hair. “To people who are still homeless, what I can really say is run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, but don’t ever give up, ever,” Dakota said. “Because no matter how despairing that situation can be, giving up makes it that much worse. People think about the homeless in stereotypes. They think they’re always dressed in rags or whatever but that’s really not the case. A homeless person could be your brother or sister. It could be anybody. There are so many misconceptions about what being homeless entails and what it really is. It’s a very sad feeling to know that the world still sees homeless people as more of a burden than anything else. It’s just not true. These are people who are unfortunate and who have been served a really crappy sandwich by life and they don’t really have any other option. Do you think that they’re happy to be in that situation? To be homeless. To be hungry, dirty, or outside? It’s just not the case,” Dakota said.

February 2017: Using the bathroom in some friend’s apartment, Dakota and Skyler color each other’s hair. “To people who are still homeless, what I can really say is run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, but don’t ever give up, ever,” Dakota said. “Because no matter how despairing that situation can be, giving up makes it that much worse. People think about the homeless in stereotypes. They think they’re always dressed in rags or whatever but that’s really not the case. A homeless person could be your brother or sister. It could be anybody. There are so many misconceptions about what being homeless entails and what it really is. It’s a very sad feeling to know that the world still sees homeless people as more of a burden than anything else. It’s just not true. These are people who are unfortunate and who have been served a really crappy sandwich by life and they don’t really have any other option. Do you think that they’re happy to be in that situation? To be homeless. To be hungry, dirty, or outside? It’s just not the case,” Dakota said.

February 2018:  After leaving Quincy for about a year and bouncing around from town to town Dakota and Skyler returned to Quincy where Dakota found a job. After a month-and-a-half wait, they found public housing. “The wait for public housing itself was a challenge. Them knowing that we had a newborn and that we didn’t really have any other options. I had to call them every single day after work to see where we were at on the list,” Dakota said. “Getting into housing is a milestone for sure, but there’s plenty of people still on that waiting list that are still outside in the middle of the wintertime and it’s ridiculous. It’s a very sad situation. To put it bluntly, our government puts a lot of money towards things that we don’t need necessarily and don’t help people who actually need it.”

February 2018: After leaving Quincy for about a year and bouncing around from town to town Dakota and Skyler returned to Quincy where Dakota found a job. After a month-and-a-half wait, they found public housing. “The wait for public housing itself was a challenge. Them knowing that we had a newborn and that we didn’t really have any other options. I had to call them every single day after work to see where we were at on the list,” Dakota said. “Getting into housing is a milestone for sure, but there’s plenty of people still on that waiting list that are still outside in the middle of the wintertime and it’s ridiculous. It’s a very sad situation. To put it bluntly, our government puts a lot of money towards things that we don’t need necessarily and don’t help people who actually need it.”

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