A portrait of homeless children in America.
Former San Francisco Chronicle criminal justice reporter Ho takes to the streets of the Bay Area and other urban regions of the country to show readers how children are surviving on the streets without parental supervision, housing, or employment. She begins by discussing the 2015 murders of Audrey Carey and Steve Carter by three homeless youths, examining what led the three perpetrators, Haze, Lila, and Sean, to the moments when they shot each of the victims. It’s a sad yet eye-opening story of physical and sexual abuse, rampant drug use, mental illness, and botched stays in foster homes. Although Ho focuses the narrative on these three youths, she does share the stories of several other homeless kids she met, which gives readers a wider view of the day-to-day existence of a homeless youth. Even though they often watch out for each other, they are also known to harm each other. They also lie, steal, abuse drugs, and are on the move constantly to avoid the police. Some have chosen this lifestyle and enjoy the freedom it gives them; others know that life at home is worse than on the streets despite the fears of being raped, drugged, or robbed. “After that first burst of freedom and escape,” writes the author, “their lives become one prolonged dehumanizing fight for survival, and with each day spent on the streets, they drift farther and farther away from being able to leave this existence when they come to the decision to do so.” Ho provides clear descriptions of this lifestyle via her interviews with the homeless, yet she sometimes repeats small details, particularly about Haze and Lila, which makes some of the book repetitive. On the whole, though, she provides sufficient information and shows compassion to her interviewees. The lingering question—how to keep these kids off the streets and in stable homes—goes unaddressed.
An empathetic overview of life as a homeless youth in America.