Homeless Teen Still Finds Time To Volunteer | Mount Vernon , Washington | The Spokesman-Review
Kaitlyn Toomey views herself like any other teenager, except for one thing: She doesn’t have a home.
Sometimes Kaitlyn, 15, and her single mother are taken in by friends or relatives, but over the past several years they have spent months living out of a minivan.
As if working through school by studying at the library or with a book lamp in a car weren’t challenging enough, Kaitlyn spends her spare time volunteering to help others. She’s held a stuffed animal drive for children in trauma and serves meals at a Mount Vernon soup kitchen. She’s also on her way to achieving the highest honor in Girl Scouts — the gold award — through long-term service work in the community.
The cheery teen doesn’t feel down about her situation, but there is one thing that bothers her: stereotypes.
She hopes her example of helping others amid her own struggles will break down the prejudices people have about homelessness.
“People can see not all homeless people are mentally ill, drug addicts or alcoholics,” she said. “We’re none of those, but we are homeless. Not everyone is what homeless people are put up to be. I’m just a normal person that doesn’t have a house.”
Kaitlyn’s stepfather died when she was young, and her mother, Candy Toomey, was unable to find a job after she injured her back while working at a nursing home. Candy has been trying to find work for years and was finally hired last week at a tax service business. The Toomeys are currently living with Candy’s cousin in Conway.
The two have been on a waiting list for low-income housing for the past four years and hope they can find a permanent home this year. Their van has broken down.
“We’re not picky,” Candy said of the type of housing they would accept.
At school, Kaitlyn keeps her situation quiet and tries to blend in.
“The people that I have told say ’what?’” she said. “They don’t believe me.”
So far this year, she has perfect attendance.