When a child has to go through being homeless, it’s a very difficult thing to endure. Then, having to go through it on and off for nearly 20 years, that’s even worse. Life for homeless school children means isolation and struggle, which is exactly what the man in the following story experienced.
He lived in and out of homeless shelters and other people’s homes for most of his life with his family. While all the odds in the world were against him making something of himself, he proved to everyone that he was not going to give up. Despite hiding his story for nearly his whole life, he now wants it to be heard…
Growing Up Homeless
He had to be quick in every aspect of his life. Being homeless meant he had to take late night showers at school when no one was around and do his best not to let any of the teammates or coaches know.
Sneaking Into School
Dawkins attended one of the wealthiest high schools in Fort Mill, South Carolina, but he spent the majority of his time there being homeless. He would arrive at his school late at night and slide a rock under a crack in the door of the locker room so he could slip into the building…
Searching For Stability
Since he was young, Dawkins’ family moved all over in search of stability. He moved back and forth from Shelby to Charlotte then to Columbus, Ohio and then Fort Mill and Atlanta. The high point in his life was when his mom and step-dad bought a house in Charlotte in 2009.
A Solid Foundation That Was Short-Lived
He had his own room for the first time in his life, as previously having lived in the projects. “When we got that house, I thought we were like the Jeffersons, moving up.” Dawkins explained. But, in 2011, that solid foundation crumbled. His mom, Brandy, lost her job and then the house, and the family searched for places to live. That’s how they ended up in Fort Mill…
Moved To Fort Mill, South Carolina
Dawkins was nearing the end of 10th grade when his mom and two siblings moved to a home in Fort Mill, where a coworker of his mother’s offered them to stay. But it was rough. The electricity would turn on and off and his mom had to buy the family jugs of water so they could bathe and brush their teeth.
Living At His Great Grandmother’s And Homeless Shelters
That arrangement was short-lived and then things really fell apart. The family spent time with a great grandmother that lived in Charlotte and also in local homeless shelters. Dawkins was enrolled at Fort Mill High School and he tried to keep his family’s turmoil a secret. This was no easy feat…
His Great Grandmother’s Passing
Then, when his grandmother passed away, it was another huge blow because it put an even greater dent in his safety net. He was forced to take secret showers at school and often curled up in the locker room and slept there for the night.
Keeping It A Secret
None of Dawkins’ coaches or teachers knew about his homelessness, although a few of his close friends found out. One of them, Tee Muhammad, is someone Dawkins described as a brother. The pair immediately bonded at school and there was one time Dawkins asked Muhammad’s mom, Bryant, if he could spend the night…
Establishing An Official Residence
When Muhammad explained to his mom that Dawkins had nowhere else to go, she allowed him to stay. She even worked with Fort Mill High administrators to establish her home as his official residence so he could stay at school. Her son even started getting better grades at school, thanks to Dawkins’ pushing.
The Passing Of His Best Friend
But in 2015, Muhammad passed away after walking into a busy intersection without looking. After that, Dawkins wasn’t himself. Soon after, football coaches Ed Susi and Bill Geiler got an inkling that something was wrong with Dawkins…
After a summer workout, Susi asked the team’s captains, including Dawkins, if they had anything to say before concluding the workout. When Dawkins stepped forward to speak, his throat tightened and no words came out. He was confused and laughed, but then hamstrings and other muscles in his body became stiff.
Hungry And Lacking Energy
He had barely eaten the two previous days and he was dehydrated because the water at his home was shut off. In response, Dawkins had to be hooked up to intravenous fluids for the next few hours, and then, over the next few months, Susi and other coaches gave him money or took him to the grocery store…
His Body Finally Gave In
But if Dawkins’ body didn’t show signs of wear and finally cave in, the coaches may never have known what was going on. Geiler described feeling embarrassed that he didn’t know about the situation. Being that Dawkins would just go about his business and practice hard, it was difficult to tell what was going on in his life.
Nothing Was Ever As Serious As What He Was Going Through
“If he gave up a touchdown or would make a pick, he never got the highest of the highs or the lowest of the lows, because he was living the lowest of the lows. Giving up a touchdown, that was nothing,” Geiler explained. For Dawkins, football offered him an avenue to escape his unstable life…
Things Finally Started Looking Up
His world finally started to turn around when he got his first scholarship offer in the mail from Chowan College. He decided to attend Bethany College but transferred to N.C. Central to find himself. Then, he became settled at Bluefield, a small school in the quiet, Appalachian hills.
A New Life At College
Despite graduating high school with a 1.6 GPA, Dawkins made the Dean’s list every year of college. This was due to the fact that his own life had stabilized. He no longer worried about where he’d sleep at night or where he’d eat. He had a meal plan that allows him to eat three times a day in the school’s cafeteria, and it’s a convenience he appreciates more than any of his teammates…
“It Feels Good”
Dawkins said, “It just feels good to not be in a situation where I’m like, ‘what am I gonna eat today? How am I gonna eat today? How we gonna do this, or do that?’ All I’ve got to do is go to the cafeteria, or call one of my teammates or coaches.” But still, it’s taking time for him to come out of his 20-year-long traumatic fog.
He Hid His Past For So Long
He didn’t speak about his life for so long until people close to him urged him to do so. “I told myself I was going to put my pride aside and let my story be heard…Your environment or upbringing doesn’t define who you are, it’s your fuel,” Dawkins said. He probably has so much fuel because of what he’s been through with his family…
Dawkins brother was murdered, and three other brothers were in and out of prison. He never knew his biological father and has attended six different high schools, with his mother growing up the same way as him. But despite all of this turmoil, Dawkins will become the first in his family to graduate from college.
He dreams about playing in the NFL but is mainly excited to graduate college. Although he still has to get over the emotional trauma he has endured, Dawkins says that he constantly reminds himself, “It’s really sink or swim.” It’s what one of his coaches told him and it has stuck with him. Today Dawkins lives a more stable life in a three-bedroom apartment in Virginia. He plays football for Bluefield College and is two semesters away from graduating.