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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State student reflects on being homeless during high school

Wren Callstrom

Many students idealize the concept of moving out one day, spreading their wings and taking the world by storm. For Wichita State freshman Wren Callstrom, moving out his senior year of high school was nothing like that. 

The summer before his senior year, Callstrom had brought concerns to his parents about not wanting to attend their church anymore. His parents responded by taking away his car and charging him rent. 

“As a senior in high school that was working like 25 hours a week, it took all my income,” Callstrom said.

Callstrom said he could not financially stay with his parents and even asked to move out. The day after they declined his request, he moved out. 

“They cared enough to tell me not to go, but if I stayed, they wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say at all,” Callstrom said.

Callstrom came out to his family as a transgender man during his junior year of high school but said that his parents were not accepting because of their religious beliefs. He said his parents were decent caregivers but let their religious beliefs dictate his life. 

“The reason I left was because I literally felt like I was going to die if I stayed there, like, I wouldn’t leave my room, and I locked myself up in there,” Callstrom said.

Callstrom was in accelerated programs in high school but because of his situation, he felt he missed out on essential experiences that high school has to offer.

Callstrom said he talked to a social worker at his high school, who connected him with the resources he needed to survive. 

“Most people don’t know the technicalities of how you qualify for being legally homeless. It was scary because there was a month where I was almost going to be on the streets,” Callstrom said.

Through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, a federal law created to support the enrollment and education of homeless students, Callstrom was able to get his tuition covered, as well as medical and dental assistance. 

“I was almost homeless, but they basically qualified (me) because my housing was unstable; it qualified me as legally a homeless person,” Callstrom said. 

He said all the belongings that he took from his parent’s house were stored in different locations because he did not know where he could put them. His art teacher caught wind of Callstrom’s situation and offered him a drawer in her classroom to store his medicine.

“The feeling of not having all your stuff together is not a good feeling,” he said. “I didn’t have all my stuff in one place until this last August when I moved into my (former) apartment.”

He said his best friend parent’s put him in contact with an older lesbian couple who took him in. 

“Out of the kindness of their heart, (they) offered for me to stay. Otherwise, I don’t know where I would have been or where I would be now,” Callstrom said.

Unfortunately, tragedy wasn’t far behind him. Callstrom was hit by a drunk driver in April 2023, which left him in a coma for six days. He woke up to see his father in the hospital room. Confused by the events, he moved back in with his parents from June to the end of July until he got an apartment. 

Callstrom said he now lives in a house; a large part of the money that helps him secure a stable living situation came from the accident. 

He said he hopes his journey will help other students understand that there are resources for those who live in unstable conditions.

“The only way that I wasn’t homeless was that I went out and talked to people and ask(ed) questions and ask(ed) for resources and support,” Callstrom said. “A lot of people our age are scared to ask, but the worst people can say is no.”

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About the Contributor
Melanie Rivera-Cortez
Melanie Rivera-Cortez, Sports Editor

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