The Young And The Homeless

Sharyl Attkisson is investigative correspondent for CBS News.
Life can be pretty tough all the way around. But I got a taste of just how hard it can really be when I met two kids for our story on homeless youth tonight on the CBS Evening News. Ben and Chery are now adults. They found each other on the streets of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Due to family circumstances, they had each spent much of their childhood in foster homes, shelters and on the streets.

When I asked them to tell me about the difficulties, I would've expected them to say it was cold living outside, or that getting food was hard, or that not having help when you're sick was terrible.

But Chery told a poignant story that really touched me. She said one of the hardest moments was going to high school and having the other kids know her circumstance. She'd been living under a tree in Harrisburg, doing her homework at night. One time when it rained, her homework got wet. She recalls turning in the wet paper to a teacher and having the paper just sort of fall apart. She was so embarrassed that the other kids saw that and knew she must be living on the streets and that she wasn't be able to keep her homework dry.

That's a moment that sticks out in her mind. Of all the tough times, the struggles and the tribulations, it's the homework falling apart in a teacher's hands in front of the other kids that sticks with Chery today.

Ben and Chery somehow managed to graduate from high school, stay out of trouble and now they live together in an apartment and are trying to get assistance to attend college.

Life may be a little better now, but it's not a whole lot easier. To get college assistance, you usually need a parent's tax forms and other documentation that these kids just don't have. The simple task of proving who they are can be nearly impossible. Try getting a birth certificate: they don't have a mailing address, they don't have a car to drive to get it. Everything is a struggle.

We all know that there are many people whose lives are more difficult than our own. But having the chance to get up close and personal with some of them, and really hear what life is like, is an important refresher course.

  • Sharyl Attkisson On Twitter»

    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.