NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The homeless population in our area is growing, but did you know the number of homeless adolescents is increasing, too?
In his latest Snapshot New York feature, CBS2’s Steve Overmyer meets a young man who found himself alone on the streets for weeks, after deciding to leave a troubled family situation on Long Island.
Logan Cavaliere looks like a typical college student doing homework, but the fact he has a home took work.
“It’s crazy to see where I’ve been and where I am currently,” Cavaliere said recently. “Some of the things I see as a casual problem from what I saw as a problem three or four years ago. It’s such a drastic change.”
He was recently part of a growing segment — homeless youth.
Overmyer: “How do you feel about that period of your life?”
Cavaliere: “I feel very proud of it to be honest, because a lot of the decisions I made back then, I wouldn’t change any of them. It was a very trying time for me and making that decision wasn’t easy. Even though I actually took the steps forward, every step was heavy and every thought I had going forward was an anchor.”
The most recent estimates suggest New York City has more than 75,000 homeless. Most find shelter. Some, like Cavaliere, were forced to sleep on the street.
Overmyer: “When you were homeless, these are the streets you would end up walking. What was that experience like?”
Cavaliere: “Pretty harrowing. At night is when I would feel pretty down about the circumstances. When I was in these streets in the night time there was pretty much nobody around, so I would feel more isolated than ever.”
“There were plenty of times I felt depressed,” he added. “I felt overly depressed to the point (that) I didn’t know what to think or what my next move would be in any regard.”
The basic needs of food and shelter were a struggle until Cavaliere was introduced to a program specifically directed at homeless adolescents. On the corner of a street in Nassau County, a door was opened at the Walkabout Home.
“I was very relieved to find that this program existed,” Cavaliere said. “Something that not only allowed you independent living, but some place to make you feel grounded. That’s the main thing a homeless youth is looking for, really, and Walkabout is literally that … a house.”
Ten residents at a time live in the house while working at a part-time job, and saving money to become self sufficient.
“There’s a lot of things you need to learn about the real world and how to live independently,” Cavaliere said. “So they have a lot of smaller systems in place here to teach you how to save and budget money.”
Overmyer: “This feels like this wasn’t only your landing spot, but also your springboard.”
Cavaliere: “There were a lot of times I was just sitting at my desk and thinking, ‘What am I going to do after I leave here?’ Because the clock was ticking. Yeah, as wonderful as this place is, you can’t stay here forever.”
This is where Cavaliere decided to change his world by creating one — in a video game.
“Video games have such power, they can not only mold your personality but your thought process moving forward,” he said. “I am who I am now because of all the games I’ve played, all of the experiences I’ve had through those games and interactive challenges.”
With the help of Walkabout, Cavaliere is now a student at Queens College. He also has a full-time job, a part-time job and is now a game developer. Most importantly, he has his own apartment.
“Something I’m devastatingly happy about. I can’t express how joyous I am to wake up and say, ‘This is my bed, dining table, kitchen. Everything here is mine.’
Programming is hard work and video game programming is the hardest of all. You must combine graphics with sound effects, plus using game theory to build a scoring system, and mostly create a world that’s fun and rewarding.
Cavaliere spends more than 100 hours a week coding and engineering. He has released three video games so far, and is working on his next masterpiece, fittingly titled “Tranquil Garden.”
“Anybody that’s playing Tranquil Garden, I want them to feel connected with the world as well as with themselves,” he said.
To beat his game you’ll need to search, negotiate, plan and find different ways to overcome problems. In a sense, he’s game-ified his life.
Cavaliere said being the player of a video game you can be the hero of your own story.
“Yeah, quite literally you are whatever character you wanna be,” he said.
Overmyer: “Look at yourself right now. You’re kind of the hero of your own story right now.”
“That’s an interesting way of looking at it,” Cavaliere said with a smile.
“You can make a difference in whatever world you’re in,” he added. “It doesn’t matter if it’s my independent-released video game, or in real life making an impact in you’re community. It’s just something you can do because you have the choice and you have the opportunity.”
In 2017, Family & Children’s Association runaway and homeless youth programs impacted 550 youths in Nassau County.