Pulling Back the Curtain on Trauma Faced by Philadelphia’s Homeless Youth

At 14, Cynthia Blocker came home one day to find her belongings in boxes outside her house and the door’s locks changed. She left her mother and her home that night, and would never return.

For the next six years, at night Blocker slept on benches, in parks, at Rittenhouse Square, at the clothespin near City Hall, at part-time jobs after hours, outside the city’s Municipal Services building, and on friend’s and family member’s couches.  During the day, she attended Charter High School for Architecture and Design, or CHAD, where she studied fashion design, juggling classwork, service jobs and hair braiding — her side hustle to save money for an apartment.

At the time, “I felt lost,” said Blocker,  now 22. “It was worrisome. I had a lot of anxiety, anxious about where I was going to sleep or what I was going to eat the next day. I felt very insecure.”

Nowadays, Blocker sleeps at a family friend’s home she shares with her dad and his friend. Still, worry that her home could be gone at any minute looms.

Like Blocker, hundreds of homeless Philadelphia youth shuffle from place to place each day, often exposed to fear, anxiety, and stress as they try to survive the streets alone. On Friday, educators, advocates, researchers, and current and former homeless youth will convene at Temple University for “In Our Backyards: Pulling Back the Curtain on Homeless Youth Trauma,” a free day-long conference to address nuanced experiences faced by today’s homeless youth and the resulting trauma. There, Blocker will speak on a panel about her experiences.

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