My 19 year old son is choosing to be homeless


New Member
hello all, here is my story...
My son did well in school( graduated with honors, college scholarship). He went to school 1 semester then decided “it wasn’t for him”. I said fine but you have to either work or go to school. He had one job and quit that. His life was basically sleeping all day. I questioned his mental status(depression) he said no. I found a therapist and he called and cancelled the appointment. Because of his age there was nothing I can do. He has left home 3 other times already and I’ve slways called him to come home and he did. But when he is home home it’s like a dark cloud is over us. He left against 3 days ago with only the clothes on his back, I told fine and I promised myself I would not call him this time. But I’m so worried about him I don’t know what to do!! I know he has the right to leave but I want to know he is safe. by the way.., home life is normal, 2 other sons who are doing well and can’t understand what’s wrong with him. I do believe mental issues may be involved, but I don’t know. Our home is “light” and happy without him here and I feel guilty about that! I don’t know what to do!! Should I try to contact him?? If anyone has gone through this, please advise me!! I know this was long but I am lost!!


Well-Known Member

If you are using your real name, I would change it (you can send a PM to Runawaybunny the site admin through the inbox, top right.)

First I will explain the bare bones of our story.

There are similarities to our stories. My son who is now 30 has been pretty much homeless or couchsurfing since I kicked him out when he was 23. He has been back and forth here either liviing with me, or in another home I own.

I pushed him to seek psychological help and to help himself in every way I could think of. He would not seek help. He worked over a year when he was 22-23, and then quit that job when he got depressed. When he would not help himself, I felt compelled to make him leave if he wouldn't help himself.

He eventually got himself on SSI/SSDI which is federal monies for disabled people. That is how he gets by financially.

I have tried every single thing I could think of over and over again for 10 years. While my son is better in someways, he is not a functional person, which causes me a great deal of pain and worry.

The thing is, these adults are that, adults. They have free will. They are self-determining. They are responsible. Whether or not they act that way or not, they are responsible. They have to learn how to make their way. I support my son in any way that I can if he works with me. But I can't play all the roles in the play. If he shows up, it has to be in a way that is appropriate and considerate.

Your son is making choices according to what he is able to do, or wants to do. Sleeping all day is fine, if you work all night. I can't imagine a scenario when sleeping all day at your parents house is an acceptable way to live a life. If he wants to do that he will have to find a way to live that is not in your house. I don't see how a parent can tolerate that.

If like my son, he is willing to sleep all day on public transportation or in libraries, what in the world can we do?

I can say 5 million more times, you need to get psychological help. And I can tie this to something my son wants, as an incentive. Like come home to live. Or whatever. But unless my son is willing to follow through, what in the world can I do?

Years ago I looked into conservatorship. But I realized that my son did function. He just did not function in ways that I approved of. He functioned in the ways that he wanted to function. I don't know what we can do about this, except to accept it. To go to Al Anon and try to change. To fill our own lives with meaning and with things that center and fulfill us.

At the end of the day, our son's lives are their own, as ours are ours to live.

I know how hard this is. I am sorry.
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Active Member
I agree with Copa. Even before our children reach 18, they are capable of exerting free will. Our influence over them is limited, and their own innate character/mental health/fortitude ultimately drives their actions.

I have two stepsons and neither can function in terms of meeting daily obligations. One is a high school dropout, despite very high intelligence. The other survived a near fatal suicide attempt in 2017 and is now impaired both physically and cognitively. They live with my wife's enabling ex and refuse all contact with us. They are beyond our reach.

I have perspective on this from the other side, as well. I also had trouble launching - my adolescence extended past my twenties and into my mid thirties. I graduated HS and college and worked but was not entirely self-sufficient for many years. My mother, with whom I was enmeshed, gave me money and paid my bills when I was between jobs.

Ultimately my own character rose up and I asked for my mother's help one last time, this time, to live in her home so I could attend graduate school full time and obtain a career. I did this successfully and am now fully launched. But it took me a very long time.

My point being that a great deal of life - the way we live, how we live, and who we exploit - is indeed a choice. At a certain point we make ourselves victims and we turn our children into parasites, with the best of intentions. Not saying that's what you're doing. This is just my opinion.

Sadly all you can do is protect yourself, set limits and boundaries of what you will tolerate in your home/from your bank accounts, and love your son unconditionally even if from a distance.


Active Member
Welcome- all of us here have similar stories. The bottom line is, as others have said, he is an adult and can do as he chooses. That being said you need to make sure you are happy and healthy regardless of his choices. If he wants to return home and you want to allow him to do so you need to have boundaries in place. Write out a list of rules he agrees to abide by, go over them with him and have him sign them. With my daughter I had things like she had to have a job within 2 weeks, she had to pay 30% of her income to me towards household expenditures, basic behavior, etc. Also spell out the repercussions if he doesn't follow the rules- likely he will be kicked out- and then stick to this. This protects you and gives him very clear expectations. I know it's really hard and I have a granddaughter involved as well, but boundaries and not enabling your son are the best things for both of you. Spend some time learning about boundaries and enabling. Sending peace to you. I know this is a difficult journey.


Well-Known Member
If it's not a mental issue, some kids don't have the ability to realize that their decisions can lead to bad consequences. After they finally figure it out years later, they are left with regret that they did nothing with their lives.

I work at the homeless shelter sometimes. There are people who actually choose to be homeless. They don't see the need to conform to society's standards, like working, being self sufficient, and obeying the law. They refuse the services available to help them. Others have severe mental illness that is untreated, and cannot conform to the norms of society. They also refuse the resources that are available. It's not something I understand. Some people like the idea of not having to answer to anybody, or having to get up and start the day.

It's mind boggling that your son gave up a college scholarship. If college isn't for him, I'm sure you probably offered to put him through welding school or truck driving school, etc. He didn't accept those opportunities, even though he had choices to work for a successful future. He has to see the light. Maybe he never will.

Tanya M

Living with an attitude of gratitude
Staff member
Welcome! You are not alone in this. My son has also chosen a homeless life style and has been living this way for many years. I like others have done everything to try and get my son to live a more conventional life.
Ultimately, our adult children are going to live their lives the way they want to regardless of how we the parents feel.
It's one of the hardest things for a parent to accept. I fought it for far too long, always "hoping" that "this time he will change". I had many sleepless nights wondering and worrying. I finally got to a place of acceptance and that saved me.
It's far too easy to obsess over our adult child's life and to enable them out of fear and guilt. This type of behavior is not good for us or them.
We each have to come to terms with "what is" in our time. My main piece of advice to you is to make sure you are living for yourself and taking care of yourself.
Do not get lost in the FOG (fear, obligation, guilt)
Keep reading the stories on these pages and gain strength from those of us who have been at this a long time.