Housing insecurity: My experience

Toni Carlotta is a senior communications major. They are a staff writer for the Newswire from Cincinnati.

Housing insecurity isn’t a very glamorous topic, but it’s a reality for more college students than expected.

Living out of my suitcases has been part of my life for years now. Getting attached to the idea of a “home” for myself is a struggle because I’ve had a roof snatched away a number of times since I was 15 years old. The past few years I’ve moved at least every few months, solely out of necessity for a safer living environment.

According to the 2019 #RealCollege national survey (86,000 students at two-year and four-year universities), 56% of participants faced housing insecurity in the past year and 46% of students reported some degree of food insecurity.

Rates of basic needs insecurity (including housing, food, transportation and utilities) reported higher for marginalized populations of students, including African Americans, LGBTQ and students independent from parents/guardians for financial aid reasons. Transgender/nonconforming participants were reported to be significantly more likely to have experienced homelessness and/or housing insecurity than their cis peers.

My entire life, my family has put their cathartic habits over a stable living environment. Cigarettes were the first thing doctors told me to cut out after being diagnosed with lupus, and I have since quit completely. For my chain-smoking family, someone complaining about cigarettes indoors can (and almost always does) lead to fights. Since one of my parents found out I was medically transitioning and kicked me out two years ago, I’ve been jumping between places to keep myself away from the chronic dysfunction and clouds of Marlboro smoke making it impossible to breathe. I could no longer justify the damage my health and well-being went through by staying around family. I could no longer deny my need to be in a place where everyone actually raises one another up instead of arguing. The majority of my time, money and energy went into helping toxic, negative individuals who only knew how to take. I could no longer stay and pretend the living situation was a healthy one.

This summer, I went as far as moving in with a significantly older person across the country as a last-ditch effort for stable housing. It only lasted one month but gave me a chance to reflect on where I saw myself in the future. I knew I’d rather sleep on couches than ever ask family members for a place to stay. It’s not worth the stress or the wrinkles anymore.

It took me years to realize just because someone is technically blood-related, it doesn’t give them a right to continually take their emotions and destructiveness out on others. It’s not a selfish act to remove oneself from damaging people.

For now, anyway, I have a bed away from family dysfunction with a close friend. Finally, I’m in a living situation where I’m surrounded by kind-hearted people who genuinely want the best for one another. I’m always a bit unsure about how long my specific living situation will last, but I’m grateful to have a place to sleep at all.