Invisible Young

A story of grit, resilience, and redemption
              One day when she was 11, Rachel revealed to her mom that her grandfather had been molesting her. While this revelation eventually led to her grandfather’s incarceration, it also tore the family apart. A tumultuous period followed, with Rachel becoming increasingly difficult to handle. At 14, she was finally told to leave her home. Having nowhere to turn, Rachel began sleeping in the local park. Fear and depression quickly led to rampant drug use and addiction. Over a six-year period, Rachel slept in parks, abandoned buildings, under bridges, and in apartments or houses shared with other drug addicts. During this time she was using and dealing hard drugs, including heroin. She saw several close friends die of overdose. She was herself beaten and robbed on several occasions. Rachel is now 19.
          Michael was five years old when he was taken away from his parents placed with a foster family. After two years, the foster parents began to talk about adoption. Unfortunately, a violent outburst by his brother destroyed this possibility, and the boys were then placed in separate homes. Over the next 11 years, Michael – a self-described problem child - would see double digit foster placements. In foster care, Michael was exposed to drugs, alcohol, and was sexually molested. On several occasions he would simply run away from his placements - life on the streets was more to his liking. Upon graduating high school at 18 he was left standing on the sidewalk with his diploma in one hand and a backpack in the other. He spent the next four years homeless, on the streets of Seattle. He describes those years as “pretty much a life of drugs and crime.” At 22 he was incarcerated for stealing a car. Two years in prison and a close relationship with a local youth counselor may have changed Michael, who is now trying to stay clean and off the streets.
          Jaclyn grew up with a mother who would have been a perfect candidate for the reality TV show “Hoarders.” She describes her mom’s kitchen as being piled floor to ceiling with rotting, stinking garbage. Jaclyn was an outcast in school, few other children wanted to befriend her as she constantly smelled. In addition to OCD, Jaclyn’s mother had other mental issues that she did not address, making Jaclyn’s childhood extremely challenging. Jaclyn describes her father as a violent, abusive, alcoholic drug addict. So after two months in high school (at 13 years of age), when a friend took her to meet a pack of homeless kids living under a bridge in town, she knew instantly she had found a new life. A few weeks later, when brought home by a police officer, she remembers her mom yelling to the cop, “Why you bring her home, she was fine out there!” Jaclyn would spend the next eight years of her life on the streets. During this period she became addicted to meth and then heroin. She sold drugs, and stole things - from a bag of potato chips to an occasional car. She remembers once hearing a police officer say (when asked by his partner if they should bring her to the runaway center) “Nah. She’s 16, she’ll probably get raped and killed out here anyway.” But for Jaclyn, this life was preferable to living with her parents. Being arrested while pregnant turned out to be a blessing for Jacklyn. In jail she was able to get off of heroin, and she decided she wanted to keep her child.

          Jackson had a more traditional home life, at least on the surface. But exposure to drugs and alcohol in his pre-teen years, along with detached parents and a disdain for mainstream culture resulted in Jackson choosing homelessness after graduating high school. After several years hopping trains and playing his guitar on the streets for cash, a near brush with death from a rare kidney and liver infection forced him to reassess his situation.
          Invisible Young follows all four characters as they attempt to transition from a life on the streets to one of more stability and promise.

            Interviews with the main characters tell the narrative of the film. Through the stories of these characters the film looks at life on the street, drug abuse and how these characters fell into and battled their addictions. They also tell why and how they ended up on the streets. Other characters in the film, youth advocates social service agencies that helped three of these young people get off the streets, discuss the changes that the three have gone through as they have transitioned to a more stable life. And the film shows where the characters are today and illuminates some of the things that can be done to help other homeless youth.
          Interspersed throughout the film are scenes of current street youth performing a multitude of talents, including several singing and musical performances and a poetry reading. Jackson (main character) is a talented singer/songwriter and guitarist, and his music is featured prominently in the film.
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