KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Most people can only imagine what it's like to be homeless, much less what it's like to be a child and living on the streets.
That's why 60 homeless youth from Wahiawa, Waipahu and Kalihi came together Wednesday to put their lives on display for service providers and lawmakers.
The attendees included Tiare Talo, a 16-year-old who — like most teens her age — has dreams of a successful future.
"I want to go to college," she said.
But for her to get there she's going to have to put in a lot more effort than most her classmates.
Talo has bounced in and out of homelessness since she was 2 years old and is currently living in a park with her family.
"It's like a roller coaster," Talo said.
Kaimiola Sykap said homeless youth need to know "they are not alone."
With the help of Adult Friends for Youth, Sykap got off the streets, graduated from high school, and now has a job and a place to stay. She and others shared their personal stories of life inside an encampment.
"It was like racist yea. Micronesians over here. Samoans, Hawaiians, Filipinos on this side," said Sykap. "In the middle of our sleep they would try to beat us up."
Talo added, "It's kind of scary when people that don't live there come and do bad stuff. They're like the bullies and we're like the little minor people."
Organizers say one of the main takeaways from the event is that if given an opportunity to do better, most kids will take it. And a mentor and motivation can go a long way.
"Somebody that they can talk to. Somebody that will help them and be there without any judgment," said Deborah Spencer-Chun, president for Adult Friends for Youth.