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Community & Behavioral Health | Recovery | Social Change


Changing the Conversation

Understanding Trauma through the Eyes of a Watertown Resident

This week is the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing and the gunfight and manhunt in Watertown that followed a few days later. When I remember this time 3 year ago, I think of the people at the finish line—those who were lost, others who survived the traumas, and the people who risked their lives to help strangers—and most importantly the resiliency shown by so many.

As a Watertown resident, I also think of my experience being on “lock down” in my home. I live close enough to the location of the gunfight that my husband heard the sounds as they occurred. I was awakened by helicopters flying low over my house in the middle of the night.

Stories of Youth Homelessness & Resiliency: M

 When I go to a shelter, I don’t get any sleep. Sometimes it's because people wake up at 4:30 am and scream at the top of their lungs. Sometimes it’s because people are up watching TV and walking around. 

But mostly, it's because the shelter is not a safe place. The first time I went to a shelter, I was 18 years old. I thought my life was over, and that I would have no social life. As a gay male, I was immediately harassed. I went to sleep every night just wishing that it would be over and wondering why I didn’t have my own place or at least some privacy.

Stories of Youth Homelessness & Resiliency: Max


That’s the sign I used to fly when I was homeless.

It served a double meaning for me. One meaning was to get the attention of anyone who just walked past without even looking at me or acknowledging me – like I was a piece of trash. You could see people thinking that every homeless person is the same, thinking that we all have the same story, that we all wind up on the street for the same reason. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Stories of Youth Homelessness & Resiliency: Kay

In January 2014, I was 19 and in a hospital. When the staff decided I was ready to leave, I met with a social worker who gave me the phone numbers of shelters. She did her best.

I walked out of the hospital and onto the street. Soon after I left, I went to a pay phone and called some of the numbers. I was hoping someone would help me figure out where I could sleep that night. But, no one answered the phone. I stood at the pay phone feeling embarrassed and hopeless. I’m not the type to ask for money or other necessities. I wandered around Cambridge, hoping that something would happen.