Three years ago, Lika M. and her family were evicted from their home after falling behind on rent payments. At the time, Lika was 14 years old and in eighth grade.
Lika is now a junior at Foster High School in Tukwila. She recently shared her story in front of fellow students during Foster's homecoming assembly. Here she talks with her teacher and adviser, Lynette Finau, about what it's like to attend school while living in a homeless shelter.
LIKA: I would walk through school hallways with my head down. I felt embarrassed because here I am coming to school and knowing that after school I didn’t have a home. My best friend, she kept asking me when can she come and sleep over and stuff. Like I made up an excuse, I just told her my parents are strict, to hide the real truth.
LYNETTE: I remember, Lika, when I learned that your family was homeless. And to be honest with you, I was surprised, because usually, you know, students who are homeless their physical appearance will reveal a little bit of their situation, but the way you carried yourself and the way you dressed, I had no suspicions at all. What inspired you to tell your story to the school, in front of the whole study body?
LIKA: I basically just wanted to speak up for those who struggle in school. I was a homeless student, and I had to think about my actions and the effort that I had to put in in order to succeed. And I thought, maybe I can just tell them about what I went through and how hard I’m pushing myself.
YOUTUBE AUDIO: I was embarrassed to come to school every single day knowing I was a homeless girl.
LYNETTE: You captured everybody’s attention in that gym, adults and all the students.
YOUTUBE AUDIO: Thank you. (applause)
LIKA: Before I sat down I started getting hugs and this girl, she was running down the bleachers and she ran straight to me and she thanked me for what I said. And she said, “I’m going through the same thing as you.”
Now that everyone knows, I can just keep my head high and I’m more willing to open up to people because I don’t have to hide anything. There’s no burden inside of me.
LYNETTE: Because of your courage to share your story, your teachers are reaching out to you, the counselors are reaching out to you even more. And so I’m a better teacher now, because I look at every student with the assumption what if they’re like Lika? So I appreciate you, Lika, for what you have done, and I have so much faith in you.
LIKA: Thank you.
Today, Lika and her family are living in a home donated to them by their church until they find permanent housing. In 2014, there were more than 30,000 homeless students in Washington state schools.
Lika and Lynette’s interview was recorded in partnership with Riverton Park United Methodist Church as part of the “Finding Our Way” project, which from 2014 to 2015 recorded more than 90 interviews with families experiencing homelessness throughout the Puget Sound area.
The work was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The recordings would not have been possible without partnership with the YWCA of Seattle, King and Snohomish; Catholic Community Services of Tacoma; Seattle University’s Center for Strategic Communications; and many other organizations.
To learn how you can help, please visit Seattle University's Project on Family Homeless.
Produced by Eve Claxton for StoryCorps
Consulting Producer: Dan Collison
Music "Frosted Glass" by Podington Bear. Found using the Free Music Archive.
With thanks to Reverend Jan Bolerjack of Riverton Park United Methodist Church.