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Until recently, 20-year-old Skarlett and her younger siblings lived in a homeless shelter in downtown San Francisco. They moved to San Francisco, the city where they were born, from Mexico. Skarlett is currently the caretaker of her younger brother and sister. She asked that her last name not be used to protect her privacy. Here is her story, as told to Youth Radio’s Amber Ly.
I was born and raised here in San Francisco until I was 12 years old. Then, I moved with my family to Mexico for seven years. And a year ago, my younger siblings and I moved back here alone.
It’s a big opportunity. The three of us were born here and we should take advantage of what our US citizenship can offer us. You know, free education and health insurance. All kinds of stuff. Back in Mexico, we had to pay for those things.
When we first came, we lived with my aunt. She wanted to house us, but she can’t fit all of us into her apartment, because she has a family of her own. Then, my siblings and I lived together in a homeless shelter. Now, we live in a subsidized Oakland apartment through a housing program.
For my brother and sister, this life is completely new for them. My brother didn’t really know English when we came back to San Francisco. So it was hard for him actually. I told my siblings, “You guys, think about it. If we go back, we won’t have free health insurance or education or the same opportunities.”
I go to school at City College of San Francisco. Even though education is what motivated us to come here, I’m only able to take one class right now. I work and I have to take care of my brother and sister. I can’t overload my schedule with another class. If my sister has an appointment at the doctor’s or my brother has a parent teacher conference, I have to see to that time — be able to attend.
It has been hard, honestly. I’m still working on how to manage everything. But at the end of the day, I find a way. Both my siblings are very supportive. They understand that we’re in a different situation than others. We help each other a lot.
I think if my mom were here, she would be doing the same things as me. I miss my mom. Back in Mexico, I was just a teenager. I’d never spent quality time with my siblings. And now, I’ve gained more time with them. I’ve learned to love them more. Almost like I’m a mom to them.
I wouldn’t say that I regret coming back. Leaving everything back in Mexico, and starting a new life — it’s better actually. I mean, everything in life happens for a reason, right?
Skarlett, 20, is a formerly homeless youth in San Francisco and a contributor to Youth Radio. Her story is part of Youth Radio’s coverage for the SF Homeless Project. Special thanks to Ed Cavagnaro (Guest Producer) and Storm White (Design Associate).