Michael’s been with us for three weeks, but he wished he could have come a lot sooner.
For Michael things have been rough since the day he was born to a crack addicted mother. His father was a drug dealer and an addict as well. Michael spent the first few years of his life living on the streets, sometimes in homeless shelters, sometimes near churches – maybe his mom thought they would be safer there. He doesn’t know, the memories are vague; after all he was only 3 or 4 at the time.
For a short while his mom, dad, and he moved in with his paternal grandmother. However, his dad was still dealing and one day hit his grandmother with a hammer. Next thing he knew he and his mom were back on the streets. He hasn’t seen his dad since.
By age 5 his other grandmother took him in and his mother disappeared. They were very poor and struggled to make ends meet. They took care of him until age 8, but by that time he was headed down the wrong path. He started acting out and was sent to live with his auntie and uncle. There he suffered severe abuse, beatings with bats and hammers – he still has scars to show from it.
One day when he was 11 he got a detention in school. He was so afraid to go home and tell his uncle that he finally broke down and told his teacher what was happening. He was put in foster care shortly after that.
In a succession of foster care homes, he was beaten and moved around. Finally he ended up in a decent home, but his caregiver was moving away soon and could only care for him for a short time. During this time he become friends with a gentleman who lived on the next floor. The man would allow him to come upstairs and play games as his foster mother didn’t have many things to play with. Life was pretty good until Michael got into trouble at school and was put into the Hitchcock facility.
The foster mother moved on, but the gentleman from upstairs found out where Michael was sent. He contacted Michael and told him he was coming to get him out. After 8 months Michael was adopted. For about a year things went well, then the man started to change. Things in his life started going downhill and he took it out on Michael. Verbal abuse, racial put-downs, and intimidation became part of Michael’s life. His adopted father also began lying and moving around a lot.
Michael wanted out, but he also realized that he had no place to go. His adopted father wouldn’t give him his birth certificate, or any other official papers. He was afraid that is he tried to leave without papers he wouldn’t be able to prove to anyone who he was. He even tried going to his old school – from his freshman year – to try and get them, but all he found was an adoption record.
By the time Michael was 16, he had was tired of it all. He began to worry and started looking up racial stereotypes. He had never wanted to get involved with drugs, but was afraid that he would end up turning to drug dealing as he didn’t know how he was going to survive. He also researched homeless shelters as he thought it might be an option he’d have to use one day. He found Covenant House and made it his backup plan for when he turned 18.
He lost track of time before he knew it he had turned 18. At this point his adopted father started to taunt him, “I could just put you out. I’m not responsible for you now.” Michael got nervous about leaving the house as he was afraid his adopted father wouldn’t let him back in if he left.
It wasn’t until Michael returned home one night to find eviction crews and police, that he realized his adopted father had been sporting two addresses to avoid eviction. Now he understood why they had often moved from hotel to hotel and why he had never been able to finish a grade in high school. His adopted father told Michael to, “Come put this stuff in the car,” but Michael just couldn’t do it anymore. He left, walking all the way from 6 mile to Martin Luther Blvd and I 96 to get to us.
Now Michael is trying to settle in. With the help of the staff at the Crisis Center he finally able to get his adopted father to give over his birth certificate. He’s slowly getting to know some of our other residents who have similar stories, but at this point mostly keeps to himself. We’re hoping that with time and love he can find the hope that he was deprived of for so long and break out of his shell.