LGBTQ youth make up roughly 40% of California’s homeless youth. How Covenant House helped one man to “live in victory.”
BY VICTOR MELAMED
November is Youth Homelessness Awareness Month, a month that follows LGBTQ history month. This connection is an intentional one as LGBTQ youth make up roughly 40% of California’s homeless youth. Most of these kids are not living on the streets by choice. Many have turned to the streets as a last resort. Many have been abused and abandoned.
This November, while we all plan to celebrate what we are thankful for, we need to remember the struggles that our LGBTQ youth face and how we can help them overcome these struggles. This is the story of Anthony Solis.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born in a military hospital on Labor Day in 1977 at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, the middle child of four brothers. My mom was a housewife and my dad was a mailman.
My father worked a lot and he drank even more.
When I was still an infant, my mother dressed me as a girl and fixed my hair like a girl and even took me out to the park as a girl. My mother wanted a daughter. On that occasion, my father saw us in the park and became very angry, physically abusing my mother for it. Shortly after, my dad sent me away to live with my grandma for the next four months in Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, the pattern of abuse continued and eventually my father turned his anger to me. As a child, when I was sound asleep he would grab me by my leg yanking me off my top bunk and I would hit my head on the floor, sometimes busting my mouth open. He would pick me up over his head and launch me into the wall. I wondered why my mom wouldn’t help me but I realized when she would, he would unleash his anger on her. When I wasn’t getting beat at night by my father, I would be getting beat in the day by my mom. My mom would purposely keep me home from school making me absent, laying the blame on me when the school checked in on me and landing me in detention. I was alone a lot. I got used to it.
How much did your sexuality play into your circumstances surrounding homelessness?
I had a friend out me as gay to my mother when I was a teenager. She informed my dad who once again released his rage on me calling me faggot while beating me. It was the last time he hit me. I took off running, and I ran and ran and ran. I didn’t know where I was going, I was just going and would never ever go back.
I was now a homeless teen in the streets of downtown Los Angeles. My first night of being free, a man came up to me, punched me in my face, and took my shoes and shirt. Having nothing, I started walking the streets all over, panhandling, looking for somewhere to go. For years I lived in fear on the streets. From theft to having grown men sexually assault me, I struggled to survive. I felt like my soul had been ripped away from me.
One day, shivering, hungry, bloody, no shoes and no hope, I saw a telephone booth and picked up the phone. I called 411; I cried to the operator asking her to help me, I was pleading for someone to help me and she connected me to Covenant House. A man named Brian came and picked me up, I was apprehensive and scared to go with him but I could see it in this man’s eyes that he was really there to help me and my silent voice said get in.
Tell us about your time at Covenant House.
Arriving at Covenant House there were no beds available but they set me up with a temporary bed, gave me warm socks, blankets, a pillow, and something to eat. It was the home that I never had. Eventually a bed opened for me and I was given a case manager. I was also given medical care and, most importantly, I was given a counselor to help me get through the years of pain and abuse. I got my first job working at Covenant House’s kitchen. I felt it, I felt and knew there was a better world for me now. I even applied for and won “Most Turned Around Resident”, a contest which took me to New York City for a candlelight vigil to spotlight youth homelessness where
I read a speech with then President Bill Clinton.
Upon returning from my trip to New York, Paramount Pictures opened an internship for Covenant House youth. I applied and was accepted, I went on to work as an on-set dresser for years, working on shows like Clueless, Sister Sister, Moesha, Frasier, and Star Trek.
If it weren’t for Covenant House, I don’t know what would have happened to me. Perhaps I would have jumped off that bridge, perhaps I would still be living under freeways, perhaps I would be a broke, lost soul on drugs on the streets, but today I am none of these things. Today I am thankful and I am blessed. Today, I live in victory. Today, I turn every obstacle as being under my feet, it’s no match for me.
To find out more about Covenant House of California and its work with youth
experiencing homelessness, visit them online CovenantHouseCalifornia.org or
@CovenantHouseCalifornia on social media.