Heartbroken Daughter Sees Her Homeless Mom In Public But Doesn't Say Anything Because They Are 'No Contact'

It broke her heart to see her mom again. But she has to do what's best for her own daughter.

homeless woman Mikael Damkier / Shutterstock

Setting boundaries is rarely easy, and the experience a young mom recently shared on TikTok is a perfect example.

A chance encounter with her estranged, homeless mom reopened old wounds, but even amidst her heartbreak, she knew she had to stick to the boundaries she established.

The woman saw her homeless mom in public 'for the first time in a long time.'

America's for-profit healthcare system and lack of adequate mental health services or social safety net means that mental illness and addiction are unfortunately very commonly correlated with homelessness. 


Approximately 1 in 8 unhoused individuals struggle with mental illness, while the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates 38% suffer from alcohol addiction and 26% with drug dependency. 

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Tatum, a young mom and TikToker, knows this harrowing struggle very personally. When she was out and about recently, she ran into the last person she ever expected to see: her homeless mother.

Tatum couldn't say or do anything when she saw her homeless mom in public, because they are 'no contact' due to her mental illness and addiction.

"Having a homeless parent is so heartbreaking," Tatum wrote in a post on TikTok. "I couldn't say 'hi' because we are no contact. My heart shattered because she looks worse than the last time."



In a subsequent post, Tatum shared more about her mother's story and how she ended up on the streets. "I think not talking about my mom's story would be such a [disservice] to her," Tatum wrote, along with a carousel of heartbreaking photos of her and her mom over the years. 


"There is so much stigma around addiction and homelessness and mental illness," she went on to say. "I have watched her fight this hidden battle for so many years until she got into harder substances and she completely lost everything."

Her mom's story describes so much of what underlies America's staggering homeless problem, which is far and away the worst of any wealthy country on Earth. "There isn't enough support," she wrote. "Family failed her. The system failed her."



And in the most heartbreaking terms possible, she summed up the true tragedy of the way our healthcare, mental health, and social services systems fail so many people.


"I feel so angry that I can't do more, so what I can do is talk about it," she said. "Because maybe, in a lifetime where she got help, instead of drugs I'd have my mum back."

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Some criticized Tatum for not helping her mom, but she said maintaining boundaries was critical to keeping her and her daughter safe.

Ask anyone who's had to do it, setting and maintaining boundaries with an abusive parent is excruciatingly difficult. It's also vitally necessary for your own well-being and, just as often, especially where addiction is concerned, theirs as well. 

"Of course, I don't want to leave my mom on the street," Tatum said in a video response to someone who criticized her for not helping her mother. "I love her more than anything." 




But she simply can't afford to let her mother in given their history. "She has battled mental health issues and addiction her whole life and I have taken care of her since I was a small child because of all her struggles," she said.

"I have endured a lot of abuse from her. And even still, I'll be the first one to defend my mum because I know she's had a hard life."

With a daughter of her own, she had to keep her mom off limits. "I cannot have someone who's using drugs in the same home as my child," she said.




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She then addressed an all too common misunderstanding when it comes to people who are estranged from their parents.

"It takes somebody a lot of stuff to get to this point where they're no contact with their parent, that doesn't just happen for no reason," she said, adding, "I'm having to choose my sanity over somebody I deeply, deeply love and care about."

"People keep saying, 'She's your mother.' Yes, and I'm her child," she went on to say. "And if your parent isn't going to watch out for you and they're going to hurt you, whether that's because of mental illness or because of addiction, you have to get to a point where you go, okay, I need to step back and put myself somewhere safe. And that is what I've done."


Boundaries are absolutely not easy. Many think it is simply standing up for yourself, but especially when it comes to the most intimate relationships in our lives, prioritizing our own needs and safety can feel impossible. 

But as every mental health professional the world over would likely agree, Tatum is doing the right thing for herself and her child. She can't take care of herself and her daughter while absorbing her mother's abuse. She also can't help her mother when her own safety and that of her first priority — her daughter — aren't in order. 



Even as heartbreaking and harrowing as her situation is, Tatum said that putting her daughter first and ending the cycle of abuse at the root of both her mother's tragic situation and the heartbreaking one Tatum herself was in made it all worth it. 


As she put it in another video, "If only I knew how beautiful life was going to become." Hopefully, one day, that life will include her mom again, too. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, help is available. Reach out 24/7 to SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or text 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.