(Copyright 2001. The Tattoo. All rights reserved.)

Making a permanent impression since 1994

December 3, 2001

Bristol teen is homeless for the holidays

By Jacqui Moreau

Christmas. A time to sit by the fire, play in the snow, and listen to carolers passing by. Well, not many carolers are likely to stop by the homeless shelter this season.

Jill is only 17 years old, but has been faced with more challenges than many people do in their entire lives. Sheís lived with mother and younger sister since her early childhood. It was always a struggle to make ends meet, but a short time ago, things took a turn for the worse. Jill and her family were evicted from their apartment -- they were $250 short of paying their rent.

After being hospitalized for severe alcohol poisoning a couple years ago, she moved into a residential treatment home, where she lived for an extended amount of time. People at the home helped Jill curb her drug and alcohol use, as well as learn conflict resolution techniques.

She says she no longer has any interest in drinking or using drugs.

"Iím almost 18," she said. "I canít do that stuff."

It was just after Jill returned home that the family received an eviction notice. At first they moved in with friends, but eventually this situation proved impractical.

Jill, her sister, and her mom now live at the Bristol Emergency Shelter, run by the Saint Vincent DePaul Society of Bristol.

They have 60 days, like other residents at the shelter, to find another place to live. Jillís mom believes that she will secure an apartment for them within two weeks.

Besides being homeless, there is another obstacle in Jillís life: Crohnís disease. A severe intestinal disease, Crohnís causes Jill intense pain to the point that she feels unable to hold a steady job. Jill is currently seeing doctors on a regular basis, and hopes to find an effective medication. In the meantime, Jill does not attend school, and is in the process of finding a tutor who will teach her at the shelter.

"At least we have a roof over our heads and weíre not outside in the cold," Jill said. "And weíve got food in our stomachs."

She tries not to focus on the distresses of the present, but instead on hopes for a happy future.

"School is my main priority," she said. "I only have one more year until I graduate."

After high school, Jill hopes to work at a daycare and help her mother out financially. She loves to be with children and enjoys the time she spends now with her church youth group.

This Christmas will not be the most merry one of Jillís life, but there are many ways that the community can help cheer up her holiday season.

Jillís illness makes her uncomfortable in the clothes that she currently has. Sweatpants and tee-shirts (she wears an extra large) would ease her discomfort. She doesnít have a winter coat -- she loves Nike, but anything warm will do. A new coat would make cold walks to doctorsí appointments or the store more tolerable for her.

Jill loves art, and would appreciate some art supplies, such as colored pencils and a drawing pad. She could also make use of a gift certificate to Strawberries to get some music for relaxation and pleasure.

Jillís Christmas wonít be by the fireside, and she probably wonít be drinking eggnog with friends and family. But she could be drawing, listening to music, or just plainly comfortable at the shelter, dreaming of Christmases to come.

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