BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — While you’re sitting inside your heated homes, safe and sound this Christmas, tearing open loads of gifts, there will be people around you who can only wish to have the same.
As a 15-year-old living in the Bristol Emergency Shelter, Matt has to live with the bitter reality that he won’t be tearing open much of anything this Christmas.
He’s living with his mom and little sister inside the shelter, and it’s been a tough transition.
At the shelter, he said, there’s “not too much room to move around.”
Matt, now a sophomore at Bristol Central High School, had to change schools when the family moved into the shelter. His family is from New Britain.
That’s where Matt’s friends are, and it’s where he thinks of as home.
Matt is one of five teens being profiled in The Tattoo’s Christmas Presence project, which aims to help struggling teenagers have a merrier holiday season. Another teen’s story is printed in to-day’s edition of The Tattoo, which appears on page A8.
Matt lost it all when his mom couldn’t pay the bills anymore.
Heartbroken when he found out that his mother could no longer support the family, he was an-gry at the thought of living in a homeless shelter.
To look at Matt, you wouldn’t peg him for a homeless person. You couldn’t tell from talking with him, either.
He plays football, and basketball, loves to read magazines and has musical tastes that run from Wu-Tang to Linkin Park. When he can, he rides his bike.
It’s not to say that his life before the shelter was easy.
For a time, the family lived in Hartford, where Matt saw his share of trauma.
“Hartford wasn’t that fun,” he said. “I’ve seen killings there and just a whole bunch of bad stuff happening there.”
If he had the chance, Matt said, he’d ask Santa for “A house, and some furniture to make it bet-ter for the whole family.”
But Matt is determined to change his own situation. He wants to go into construction and make some money to help his family.
He’s doing better in school here in Bristol, he said, trying hard and getting decent grades.
It’s not Matt’s fault that he’s in the homeless shelter. And it’s truly sad to see that despite his good intentions and all he has to offer, he’s there.
But Matt isn’t one to wallow in self-pity. His ability to keep his head up and joke in such a dis-mal situation is inspiring.
While no one at school knows that he lives in a homeless shelter, he has enough pride to not be ashamed of it if they found out.
But he said it’s not something he’d openly tell everyone.
He admitted he’d feel different around his friends if they knew about his situation, knowing that he’s homeless while they have it made.
Even though he has an obvious lack of material things, he doesn’t yearn for them. He’s not look-ing out for himself, but for his whole family. What would really make his Christmas this year would be just seeing his little sister and his mom happy.
He would love for them to live a normal life like everyone else around him.
But when pressed, Matt said he could use some new jeans (36×38), black, gray or blue sweat-pants and hooded sweatshirts (extra-large). For fun, he’d make good use of a GameBoy Advanced, a portable CD player or gift certificates for music.
Most of all, he wants to get out of the shelter.
So while you’re tearing apart those gift boxes on December 25th, be thankful for whatever you get, because you never know how your world could change.
To help Matt or any of the teens profiled in The Tattoo’s Christmas Presence series, please bring donations of gifts to The Bristol Press at 99 Main St., during regular business hours, or make a check to: The Tattoo Christmas Presence and send it to The Tattoo, c/o advisors Jackie Majerus and Steve Collins, P.O. Box 483, Bristol, CT 06011. And thank you.
Sam Yosafi is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International. The address mentioned is no longer valid.