Higher Learning while Homeless

Posted on 12. May, 2010 by in IN THEIR OWN WORDS

By Matt Robinson and Hannah Rappleye

After getting released from prison, Kwame Carr got a phone call saying there were two beds left at Covenant House – a youth homeless shelter. Carr, 20, was staying at Bellevue overnight and ran over to the shelter to get his spot. He made it. Luckily.

Carr became friends with another homeless youth, Michael Lorenzana, who arrived at the crisis shelter 3 days earlier. They were roommates. Since Carr had no clothes besides the ones he was wearing, Lorenzana gave Carr some t-shirts and 2 pairs of jeans.

The two are trying to prove everyone wrong, leaving behind a past of violence, gangs, and instability for something better. Despite taunts from family members that they’ll never amount to anything, both enrolled in college.

Carr’s mother had a drug abuse problem, and the DCYF took him into foster care when he was 14. From there, he bounced around to different foster homes until he was 17. He admits he was wild and a troublemaker when he was younger. He got arrested for robbery and served 3 years.

He was a gang member of the Bloods. While in prison, Carr rarely received any mail. This made him realize that there was no one out there for him. He changed his attitude and got his GED.

Since his release, he’s taken advantage of the opportunities at the Covenant House. The privately funded shelter offers services such as counseling, job training, and healthcare.

The shelter has a 30-day crisis program that helps homeless youth get back on their feet. But they must show that they’ve looked for jobs or attended classes for their GED. Most kids hang out for 3 weeks and in the last week they scramble to find jobs, said Lorenzana.

Carr and Lorenzana were in the 30-day crisis program, but because of their initiative they have now been placed in an 18-month long program, where they’ll have ability to focus on school work.

Lorenzana pushed Carr into signing up for college. Lorenzana, already 2 years into his 4-year degree program at the College of Staten Island, told him you can either go into the military or go to school.

Carr is now attending Technical Careers Institute in Manhattan, where he’s majoring in building management and construction.

“I’m not comprising what I have, or what I’ve pushed for just because, because I’m in a bad situation,” he said.

Lorenzana left home after too many fights with his mother’s boyfriend. The boyfriend would taunt Lorenzana that he would not amount to anything. But the criticism motivates Lorenzana:

In Their Own Words

Related Stories:
A Chaotic First Stop for Homeless Families

From Addiction to Homelessness to College: One Student’s Path


One Response to “Higher Learning while Homeless”

  1. Homeless People

    09. Aug, 2010

    What a terrific post on homeless college! I honesty enjoyed reading it, and my own site is about Homeless People so I’m not just saying so lightly. Keep up the excellent work!