Regina Calcaterra is a high-powered lawyer. She lives in a beautiful house on Long Island, New York.
And you'd never guess that she used to be homeless.
Calcaterra said, "My mother was mentally ill. She self-medicated through drugs and alcohol. She had five children by five different men and she was not capable of taking care of us."
So Calcaterra and her siblings learned to take care of each other.
Calcaterra's heartbreaking saga is detailed in her new book, Etched In Sand: A True Story Of Five Siblings Who Survived An Unspeakable Childhood On Long Island.
"Our source of strength came from each other," said Calcaterra.
She says their mom let them fend for themselves when she wasn't abusing them.
Watch Calcaterra's story.
Calcaterra recalls, "She would tie me up in a closet. She would tie me to a radiator. She would tie me to a bed and leave me there for days. What she didn't know was that, first, I had a very strong spirit and second, my siblings would constantly be sneaking in and giving me food and water."
When the children hit rock bottom, they lived behind a supermarket.
"This is where we'd make our beds. We'd make it out of cardboard boxes that we would get from the back of the grocery store, break them open and lay them down here and sleep for the night," she said.
A library was their safe haven.
Calcaterra explained, "I would take my siblings here because I was taking care of them. I was the parent, essentially."
Their mother died in 1999, and through sheer force of will, Calcaterra managed to put herself through law school.
Incredibly, the five kids, now all grown up, are doing well. Calcaterra hopes her story serves as a cry for help for children in desperate circumstances.
"Just the thought that my book actually being in this library where I came as a kid who was impoverished. Maybe one day one of these kids is going to be reading it too and figuring out it is that they're going to pull themselves up and out."
To read the prologue, click on the View PDF button below.