(AMES, IA) Krista McCalley of the Des Moines area became homeless at the age of 19 after aging out of the foster care system and finding herself without any family or support.
“I was homeless for approximately six months,” McCalley said. “It doesn’t sound like a long time, but when you are living it, every day seems like a week.”
During McCalley’s six-month period of homelessness, she slept and showered at friends’ houses on occasion, but chose to primarily sleep in her car and shower at work due to the fear of overstaying her welcome. She was able to maintain employment during this time but had difficulty saving up for a place to live due to the fact that she had to pay for services- namely laundry and fast food.
McCalley explained that it was stressful not having a place to call home.
“When living out of your car, there is always the potential of something dangerous happening to you,”
McCalley said. “I did not sleep well, only in couple hour increments. Then I would move my car and sleep a bit more. I had a lot of friends, but no one knew about my situation. It was embarrassing to me.”
This is not an incredibly rare situation, as 2018 statistics show that 2,749 Iowans found themselves to be homeless at some point that year. McCalley wishes she would have known about YSS and the services the organization provides to youth, such as shelters and after-foster care, when she needed them most. As an adult, she has found a community at YSS through a support group that allows her to connect with other young adults and alumni who have been through similar situations. She believes that YSS is on the forefront of changing systems for the better.
McCalley currently works a full-time job and has a nine-year-old son, but still finds a way to advocate for foster care rights in her spare time. Her decision to make time for this is rooted in her passion to always give back to the community that helped her. She was adopted at age 21 and now finds herself surrounded by family who cares about her.
“Being homeless humbled me,” McCalley said. “It gave me the skills to advocate for myself and the ability to know that no matter how rough life gets, I can survive anything.”
McCalley will be telling her full story at Reggie’s Sleepout on April 26 at the Cyclone Sports Complex in Ames. Reggie’s Sleepout is an annual event that raises funds and awareness for youth homelessness in Central Iowa and supports three local organizations working to address youth homelessness: YSS, Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support (ACCESS) and Emergency Residence Project (ERP). Reggie’s Sleepout participants will sleep under the stars, rain or shine, to experience what it’s like to spend a night without a comfortable place to call home, a concern McCalley dealt with for six consecutive months.
According to McCalley, there are so many reasons to say “yes” to participating in Reggie’s Sleepout. Having navigated through both homelessness and foster care, McCalley explained that while becoming a successful adult in these circumstances can be done, it isn’t easy. There are many young people in our communities that are navigating homelessness, and they need our help, compassion and support.
“I support Reggie’s Sleepout because it brings awareness to the massive number of young people who are homeless across the state of Iowa,” McCalley said. “It brings awareness to organizations that are willing to support and be there to assist so individuals do not have to be alone in their experience. To us, one night in the cold is too much, but there are people living it every day.”
If you’re interested in camping out for youth homelessness, you can register to participate in the event at www.reggiessleepout.org. If you’re unable to attend the event but still want to make a difference in the lives of homeless youth in Central Iowa, you can visit the site and make a donation. All donations will go to YSS, ACCESS and ERP.
For more information, please contact Amy Hutter, Director of Marketing and Communications at email@example.com 515-233-3141 ext. 4466.