When we met Cynthia outside of Union Station, she was waiting for a friend to come pick her up. Her friend was letting her stay at her house for a few days. "She tells me that I'm good company, and that I have a real nice voice - real sweet and quiet-like."
Most people, she continued, wouldn't think that she was college educated either, but she had been to four different post-secondary institutions. She really liked school, and she really liked skating. When she lived in Montreal, their father would take the two of them to a rink - she did ice-dancing and her sister, figure skating.
We asked how she ended up in D.C., and she told us about how she had run away from her home state, Illinois, when she was a teenager. She told us stories of Chicago's runaway children. Many left home because of religious conflict in the family. They'd run with lovers or alone, and get on a bus with a $1 ticket. "Do they come home? They come home when they're ready," she smiled, "but only when they're ready."
Charmaine Runes has a fluid definition of "home"; her heart stretches and surrounds Dubai, Minnesota, and the Philippines. Charmaine graduated from Macalester College in Saint Paul with a degree in economics and moved to D.C. in 2015. She currently works as a research assistant at the Urban Institute's Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population. Her projects relate to immigration and income inequality; racial and ethnic disparities; risk factors for homelessness and family interventions; and disconnected youth.