When Dani was 17 and living in Whitefish, she thought her mom was just leaving town for a couple of weeks. Her parents had separated a few months earlier and she wasn’t in the habit of living with her dad. When her mom went to visit family in California, Dani stayed behind.
“Being a 17-year-old, I was like, really excited,” said Dani, who is now 19 and asked to be identified by her first name only. “I was like, ‘Oh yeah, like I got the place to myself, going to be super fun.’ But in reality, it wasn’t fun at all, and it was actually really traumatic.”
Feeling alone and unsafe, Dani soon moved in with her best friend’s family. According to the federal government’s definition, she was technically homeless.
Her mom decided to relocate to California permanently, and Dani ended up living with her friend’s family for months, feeling grateful for their support while she navigated her changed reality.
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“Without them, I think I would probably still be homeless, or even worse off than that,” Dani said. “Me seeking them out was what seemed to be really my only option.”