BELFAST — November was National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. As part of a larger event to raise awareness about homelessness, local nonprofit But Still I Am One created a National Homeless Youth Awareness contest with a prize of $100.

But Still I Am One provides support and services to young adults who are unhoused or home insecure. The contest invited students from Waldo County high schools to enter an essay, poem or art piece around the theme of “how they would feel if they didn’t have a home.”

According to Neva Allen, founder and president of But Still I Am One, 18 students entered, one from Mount View High School, 16 from Searsport District High School, and one from Waldo County Technical Center. “This is the first year we held this contest, so we were very pleased,” Allen said of the students’ response.

The winning submission was an essay by SDHS student Nevaeh Amaro. At a Community Conversation on homelessness held Nov. 19 at Belfast Soup Kitchen, Neveah received a certificate and the cash prize.

Here is her winning essay:

I’m 17 years old and homeless. I’m here to tell you guys my story. I sleep outside in the cold without any blankets or pillows. Sometimes I sleep on an old couch outside or I even sleep on benches. I really don’t want anyone to feel bad for me. Some days I’m depressed. I also feel mad at the world for my mistakes even though I know it’s not anyone else’s fault. Some people offer me some food and stuff. I was always taught not to take people for granted. I personally hate when people spend their money on me. All my family and friends have all left me, so I don’t really have anyone to talk to.

The reason why I’m homeless is because I thought it would be cool to live on my own. I had my own apartment and my very own car. I hung out with the wrong crowd of people and got into bad choices. When I did all that I lost my job, my apartment, and my car because I couldn’t pay my bills. I even dropped out of school. Suddenly I was homeless. It was like BOOM YOU’RE HOMELESS! slapped right across my face. Ever since I made my horrible choices, I lost everyone and everything. Right now I’m working on getting a job, but its not working very well because when I did spend the night at someone’s place they stole my wallet that included a little bit of money, my social security card, my birth certificate that was in my purse that I no longer have.

One of my old friends ran into me the other day and said I can stay with her,but she’s one of the ones who got me into the drugs and alcohol.I can’t do that again. The last time I hung out with her I kinda overdosed and almost died. She didn’t even care and that hurt none of my friends cared. So I kindly told her I can’t go down that road again.

It’s hard when everyone knows you’re homeless. Sometimes when I walk past people, they make dirty looks and whisper about me. I feel super lonely and so I go for small strolls through my town, but it’s very hard to do that when I have nothing in my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my friends and my family but there’s nothing I can do about that. I’ve been homeless for about six months now. I’m also six months clean off drugs and alcohol. I don’t recommend that to anyone at all. My parents have always told me to come home but I can’t. I just can’t, I don’t want to deal with them fighting 24/7 and have it always be blamed on me. That’s the only reason I left home. —  Nevaeh Amaro