From Homelessness to Becoming an Adult at Fourteen

Carlos Vega, a 38 year old Puerto Rican man, father of three, and a husband overcame an adverse life.

Carlos Vega was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, but moved with his father to Michigan when he was eleven. Vega shared very few memories about his mother but one memory he decided to share was when he was three years old and he was in the hospital, balling his eyes out and screaming because he woke up scared and confused, with a catheter located in his private area. He had just gotten out of surgery and his mother left him in the hospital while she went to go out to the club with her boyfriend.

At the age of fourteen, Vega's father died and he had nowhere to go. He was homeless. By the time he turned sixteen, Vega was able to offer "a junky with a young daughter," $106 a month to allow him to rent a room in her apartment.

Vega recalled that by the age of eighteen, his girlfriend was pregnant and he also had his younger brother to care for. Carlos left an engineering job that paid $14 an hour to go to a factory job that was 2.5 miles further than his previous job and paid $12.25, but offered him more hours. He recalls feeling sick during a ride to work due to the fact that many people were counting on him to maintain a roof over their heads.

Now at age thirty-eight, Vega had some advice to give to those who may come across similar challenges, “You figure out ways to make it better to never be in the same situation again...If something is uncomfortable find a solution to help you become comfortable. Learn from your mistakes and don’t make them again,” said Vega.

Carlos Vega views himself as a realist with high expectations. He is a father of three teens and a husband. He owns a house and works a job that pays him twice as much as his engineering job he had as a teen. He knows that he will not be put in a situation where he is going to suffer like he did when he was younger. He works every day to ensure the safety of his family and himself.

According to Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness, there are 86,000 homeless persons in Michigan. Vega understands that at one point in time he was one of those thousands of homeless persons. Thinking about that fact, Vega tells me "adversity builds character."

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