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Mersadez, USA
One day when she was 12 years old, Mersadez finds out that her family has just a few days to leave their home. Again.

Mersadez lives with her mum, Stephanie and little sister Dahlia in a little dorm room. But ever since her mum Stephanie was in a serious car accident she has been unable to work or study, so now they have to move.
   At five o’clock one morning, Mersadez packs her clothes, schoolbooks and toys into a van that her mum rented. The family has nowhere to go, so they have to sleep in the van for almost a week.
   “There was no room to lie down, so we sat and slept in the seats,” recalls Mersadez. “The next morning we used the toilets in shops and at McDonald’s to brush our teeth and wash.”

Mersadez had experienced homelessness many times before, but this was the worst yet because they had to live in the van.
   “It was scary,” says Mersadez. “For the first time, I lost all hope. I thought we’d never have a home of our own. That nothing would ever be good again.”
   After a bit less than a week the family moved into a motel that had been converted into a shelter.

Mersadez does her homework at the table, while her little sister Dahlia, 8, gets a snack.

“Then we moved a lot, until we arrived at the motel where we live now, in one room with a kitchenette. We’ve been here for two years. Everyone else who lives here is also homeless. Mum prefers us not to leave the room after school. She has always tried to protect us as much as she can,” says Mersadez.

Over two million children in the US are currently homeless, sometimes because their parents lose their jobs and can’t pay the rent. Others have a parent who is escaping a violent partner. Mersadez’s mum had a difficult upbringing herself. Sometimes she still feels so low because of her own childhood that she can’t work and bring money in.

Mersadez and Dahlia’s mum doesn’t want them walking around the motel, because some of the people who live there have drug problems and can get violent. “But most of them are nice,” say the sisters.

No one knows

Mersadez’s school friends don’t know where she lives.
   “Most of the kids at school are very well-off. If they knew I was homeless, it would change their opinion of me completely. Instead of being a person, a friend, I’d just be a homeless person to them, not a human being. I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me or treating me differently.”

Mersadez decoreated one wall with pics and lights, like this selfie with her bestie.

During Covid, Mersadez and Dahlia had remote lessons via the internet for a long period. It was tough being locked in the motel room almost 24 hours a day and trying to keep up with school. Mersadez had help then with her schoolwork from an organization called School on Wheels, which was set up by WCP Child Rights Hero Agnes Stevens.
“I’m doing well now and can also help my little sister.”

Mersadez, USA
Represents children who are homeless and stands up for other children experiencing homelessness.

Likes: School.
Loves: Dancing, particularly hip hop.
Difficult: Telling the police.
Likes: Painting and singing.
Doesn’t like: Not having a home or a feeling of security.

Top image: The family and two cats share a double bed. Dahlia and Mersadez.

Text & Photo: Carmilla Floyd

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