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#MercerCares is honored to support Covenant House and SleepOut America. Mercer, make tomorrow today.
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Tony and his two older sisters never got along, not ever, for as long as he can remember, and to this day he doesn't understand why. They bullied and tormented him, did and said horrible things to him whenever they could.
His sisters would dress him up like a girl, force make-up on him, and then tell him he should have been female because nobody wanted a brother. It hurt him deeply. And they made fun of his weight and the fact that he loved to eat. They hurt, they teased, they ridiculed, but still, he didn't feel unsafe - they hadn't done any physical harm to him, and he thought maybe it was just normal. But, deep down inside he knew it wasn't normal, and maybe he even knew that he really wasn't safe - his life with his sisters felt dangerous and terrifying.
His Mom was amazing and loved and protected him when she could, but that wasn't very often because she was a single parent and had to work all the time to keep their apartment, and food on their table, and keep them cared for. His Mom just wasn't able to be around the house and with them often enough to truly see what was happening to him, and how abusive it was - and she couldn't enforce the rules since she wasn't there.
As he moved into his teenage years, the bullying and abuse from his sisters moved from hurtful words to real violence, and that violence grew and grew until eventually, he knew he truly wasn't safe in that house. He was being abused. His mom realized what was happening and felt the same way - it was dangerous, unsafe, and she needed to get him away from his sisters.
With nowhere else to go, and the situation at home going from bad to worse, Tony went to live with his Uncle. For a little while things were okay, he felt safe, there was nobody there to hurt and bully him, and his Uncle was easy to be with.
But then, out of the blue, Tony came home to find an eviction notice on his Uncle's door. With his Uncle being evicted, Tony was left without a place to live - he couldn't go back home because his sisters were too threatening, and he didn't want to burden his Mother because she had so much to deal with on her own, and so, just like that, he found himself scared, hungry, and on the streets - He was homeless, a homeless teen with nowhere to go. He eventually found himself in Central Park, and tried to blend in and look normal.
This was no homeless kid experiment, he was hungry, dirty and tired, and had no money for food. He found a McDonalds and just sat, scared and alone. Finally, some kids left a tray full of uneaten food on top of the trash, and, embarrassed but too hungry to care, he took the tray and ate their leftovers.
He was a homeless kid on the street, spending his nights in the park with nobody to help him - not a homeless experiment like he watched on youtube, this was real. On his fourth night of homelessness, he had to sleep on the streets, while he was sleeping, he got assaulted - beaten up really badly by a gang of thugs. He learned firsthand what it was like to be homeless in America. It was unsafe and dangerous.
After that horrible assault, he knew he needed to get help - homeless solutions - and he called his Mom. He needed more than a place to sleep warm, he needed a safe place to stay. They went searching and that is how they found Covenant House - a homeless shelter, an adolescent shelter for homeless kids.
It was the best thing that could have happened to him. He made friends and learned to share his feelings, not hide in his pain and all he had been through. Covenant House gave him a sense of real hope and a feeling of deep connection and trust.
He was able to connect more deeply with his Mother, knowing that she knew he was okay, and ultimately, after all, he had been through, he found his redemption at Covenant House. His homelessness was a chapter, a stop along his journey, and the shelter and care that he finally found set him on a new path where he, in turn, can help others - just like he is doing by sharing this amazing story!
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