This is Mario’s story.

Like so many unaccompanied teens, Mario’s mother and father pushed him out the door to fend for himself. When the challenge of feeding a large family grows too great, the oldest is often forced to find his own way.

“My parents say this is best for me, to be on my own,” Mario once shared with Trinity Cafe volunteers. “It’s been about four years. I sleep wherever I can find a place. Some days I go to the library and read comics. I like “Superman.” I walk to Trinity from there. Most days I enjoy the walk.”

Family crisis and discord is the most prevalent reason youth and young adults become homeless. Young people are at a greater risk of becoming homeless if their parents have mental health issues or engage in substance abuse. Those teens who come out to their parents as gay or lesbian also find themselves searching for a place to live after heated arguments. Other reasons include child abuse in the home, living in a family that has previously been homeless or living in foster care and aging out of the system.

To see young people, like Mario, with tremendous potential and no one to nurture and encourage him to become a responsible self-sufficient adult strikes a sad and moving chord.
Artist Bryant Martinez, a former U.S. Marine who once dealt with being homeless, was moved to craft two paintings that reflect the challenges Mario endures.

“I applied true emotion to the orange hues in the first painting,” Martinez said. “Because I remember walking through humid days in Ybor City and West Tampa. Like Mario, I remember going to the John Germany Library to escape the heat. And the sun in Florida feels orange to me, especially after walking in the rain, especially after trampling across the dirt and grime of Tampa’s streets. I’m glad Mario found a haven at Trinity Cafe, if only for a few moments.”