YYA Spotlight: LaBraia Owens on Experiencing Homelessness in High School and Her Hopes for Change


LaBraia Owens is a member of TNOYS’ Young Adult Leadership Council and a double major in business computer information systems and economics at the University of North Texas. 

From a young age, LaBraia has been academically and leadership driven. She describes herself as motivated in building up herself and others, and she is dedicated to showing youth that they can have a voice in many areas and in all walks of life. 

LaBraia recently worked with TNOYS on a blog post about the impact of experiencing homelessness in high school, the support that could have helped her, and how she hopes her voice can make a difference for other young people in similar situations. Read her blog post below.

“You did amazing tonight at the meeting!” my teacher said to me. I just smiled and nodded in thanks. I had just completed another successful DECA meeting as president, but I couldn’t help but think that no one really knew what was going on in my life right now. I wish my teacher would have known that my entire life had just fallen apart. If only they knew the president of this amazing organization is now also a homeless teenager. 

It all started when I received a text from my mom explaining that she had checked me out of school and I needed to go home immediately with my younger sister. I was so confused, but I packed up my things and hurried to find my younger sister who was in her psychology class. My sister got out of her class worried. “Where are we going Braia?” she kept asking me. As we began to walk home, all ll I could say was that everything was going to be okay. I started to get anxious about the cars driving on the street: I hoped they didn’t wonder why we weren’t in school.

We went to a predominantly white high school, which was a really good school in the suburbs. We stayed in a bad house but in a decent neighborhood. As we were getting closer to my house, I saw a big blue truck. I got really worried:  Why was there a big blue truck in my driveway? I was greeted by two older white adults: one man, one woman. When they opened the door, they asked us what we wanted. I nervously told them that this was our home and that we are looking to get our personal items from the house. When I said this comment, they immediately started to yell at me. I was never so shocked before in my life. I just sat there in silence as these random white people yelled at me. They were frustrated by my mother’s lack of care for their property. Although I understood their anger, I didn’t understand what this had to do with my sister and I.

The couple explained that we could not get our things because our mom had gotten us evicted from our household. I will never forget that moment. I called my granny to come pick us up and explained to her what happened. As we arrived at my granny’s house, I wanted to cry and be angry and open up to her but I realized I had a DECA meeting. I ordered an uber, went to school, and ran our monthly chapter meeting with 80+ members. Nobody knew what had just happened to me. It is crazy how powerful a smile is.

This exact moment shaped the rest of my life journey. I tried so hard to block out the negatives of my life circumstances like when we had no lights in the house, no food in the fridge, or when we couldn’t stay at home with my mom. I just wanted to be normal. But when this situation happened, nothing was ever the same. When I went through this experience, I had no resources besides my counselor and teachers at school. I wish I would have been able to hear about different programs, but most schools either aren’t aware of these programs or they don’t give these services out to youth unless the student is really struggling. It would have helped me a lot growing up to have a foundation of services and outlets that help me with some of the natural barriers I had growing up.

The reality is even if I had a voice in decisions I still would have had some struggles just because of my upbringing. But I know if I could have been an advocate for myself, I would have been able to tell someone even if I look like I have everything together to still check in on me and provide me with resources. I know if just one person would have really noticed I was hurting and spoke up about it, that would have transformed my story. 

Today, I am proud that I graduated high school despite these obstacles and went on to college at University of North Texas. As a YALC member, I want to educate myself on the different systems so that I can be an informed advocate for youth, and help providers understand the youth they might encounter and how to best serve them. I know firsthand how the challenges youth face are often hidden to teachers, counselors, and many others, and I am excited to use my platform to be a voice for youth who may not be the “typical story” when it comes to systems-involvement or homelessness.

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