At our Candlelight Vigil on November 17, 21-year-old Covenant House Texas resident Paul bravely shared the story of his journey to our front door with a supportive crowd of community members and Executive Sleepers.
Paul shared that he celebrated his 20th birthday last year in August 2021, surviving on the streets after the devastating loss of his father. While he and his three siblings were always a close-knit support system throughout their tumultuous childhood, the extended family fractured even further when their father passed away in 2021, leaving them with nowhere else to turn.
Paul described his early years, growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At four years old, living with his two brothers and little sister, the abuse began from his mother’s ex-boyfriend.
“I was beaten and verbally abused by him and he also tried to murder me and my siblings many times,” said Paul, explaining that this man would eventually go on to spend life in prison. “None of us were really old enough to stand up to him or fight back. He was also abusing our mother.”
In the midst of chaos and hardship in their home, a family already in survival mode was faced with Hurricane Katrina.
“We just thank God that we kept on surviving,” said Paul.
At 8 years old, Paul’s dad was released from prison and his mother, in the throes of alcohol and substance misuse, left the three young children behind in Louisiana for Las Vegas, Nevada.
“We were stranded in the middle of nowhere,” said Paul. “We had no food, no shelter and no water. Me and my siblings walked around looking for what we needed to survive and we found a house that seemed to be abandoned.”
Paul explained that, after trespassing onto the property, the owner had them arrested and the authorities were able to place them with their father for a brief period.
“My dad was my strongest support system. He was an alcoholic, like my mother, but he was a great father and a strong-willed man,” said Paul. “He made sure that me and my siblings had a roof over our head whenever he had one to share.”
Not long after, the state of Louisiana would deem his father’s guardianship to be inadequate, leaving Paul to be a ward of the state from ages 9 to 18, where he fluctuated in and out of the foster care system.
While a stable living situation had been out of reach for Paul and his siblings their whole life, he only knew the true reality of young adult life on the streets after his father’s funeral. As their extended family dispersed again, the kids found themselves out of options. Not long after, Paul would make his way to Houston and find safe haven at Covenant House Texas.
“I went through intake at the old Covenant House Texas campus on Lovett Blvd,” said Paul. “It was awesome and comforting to be there. With all the resources they’ve provided me and the support from my case manager Ms. Cynthia and the shelter director Mr. Eugene, I feel really inspired through the ups and downs.”
As he paves his own future here at Covenant House Texas, he reflects on his life, not with grief, but with optimism for what he will do in the future while carrying those experiences.
“My dad tried his best and really inspired me to help people,” said Paul. “I know a lot of people say that we have a hard life—and most of us do—but it’s what made me who I am today.”