by Desiree Toli
At the age of nine, Allen Michael Wright relocated from Ohio to Arizona with his single mother and two sisters. They left a life in Ohio full of arguments and incidents within their family in search of a new life in Arizona: A life that would eventually cause the family to split and leave Wright homeless at 24 years old in Phoenix.
When Wright, his mother and sisters boarded a Greyhound bus in 1998, he was only nine years old. He and his family lived in a Motel 6 for some time and eventually the family was able to rent a house in Phoenix. Wright attended school and eventually graduated high school. After high school, however, he and his family began having massive arguments and disagreements over things like finances and personal choices.
“Things just started happening, there was a lot of disagreements,” he said. “I decided to leave and find somewhere else to go, my mom wanted me to stay, but I decided to leave,” he added.
The family split and his sisters eventually settled into new relationships and his mother soon joined them. After leaving home, Wright began sleeping on the streets and park benches around the city. Soon after, he started getting into trouble and found himself in and out of jail.
“I’ve been in and out of jail for almost ten years now,” he said.
One night after leaving his sister’s house, where he parked his car that he was driving at the time, he was arrested. He spent months in jail and upon release, found his car gone.
“Things were going good, and I was hoping my stuff would still be there when I got out, but it wasn’t,” he said. Wright was released from jail ten moths ago and is currently in the process of getting his documents in order after his wallet was stolen while sleeping on a park bench one night.
“I was laying down trying to sleep and I felt something, when I woke up I checked my pockets and my wallet was gone,” he said. “I had everything in there.”
Wright is aware that he has to get a new ID, Social Security card and birth certificate, but those require money and he does not have any. In the meantime, he is doing much of nothing.
“I’ve just been lazy, I guess, I’m laid up,” he said. “I haven’t really had the motivation to get the process going, but I know I have to.”
Wright regularly sleeps on the streets outside of St. Vincent de Paul, and eats the meals they serve. When he needs a shower and clean clothes, he treks across Phoenix to his mother’s retirement community to shower and wash his clothes.
“She wants me to stay with her, but I can’t because it’s a senior-citizen complex,” he said.
Wright has sought help from numerous homeless-prevention programs. “I was in a good place and it was really good, but I was lost, confused and beat down, so I didn’t really do my best there,” he said of a previous program. “When I look back, I wish I would have done better and stayed there.”
Resigned to sleeping on the streets, Wright still struggles with the fear that stems from life on the streets. “I still be scared as hell,” he said. “I have to watch my back all the time.”
In regards to his future, Wright said that “I pray to God that I can get everything in order; to have a place to stay, regular contact with my family, good food to eat, have a shower everyday, you know, stuff like that.”