NOTE: In search for practical applications of common basic human dignity and respect. What can one person do?
Eight years ago, I fell upon hard times and ended up homeless in Lansing, Mich., for six months of my life.
I was too ashamed to tell my family or friends when I lost my house so I didn’t ask for help. Instead, I lived in parking lots and tents with other people on the street. It’s definitely rough out there and there is a lot of mental illness and violence, but I also met people who weren’t much different from me. That really stuck with me. I also built great relationships and connections that I couldn’t break.
Three years ago, I decided to do something to help the people who were still out there. I spent a week in November 2010 walking the streets of Lansing, giving out blankets and coats, talking to people who didn’t have homes and sleeping outside with them. I shared the whole thing through posts, photos and videos on Facebook. I wanted people to see what homelessness really is.
I’ve continued to do this for a week in November every year since. I give people the knowledge to get off the streets and help them to go to a shelter. I want to provide a meal, I want to provide warmth, and I want provide a way for the public to see what the need is. There’s so much misunderstanding about what homelessness is and isn’t. I give people a window into the reality, while personally helping as many people on the streets as I can.
Each year that I’ve done this, more people in my network and the community have gotten involved. This year I went out from Nov. 11 to Nov. 17, and saved 25 souls from the streets of Lansing in seven days. I decided to keep the effort going with my buddy Jessep and start a non-profit: The Homeless Angels.
A local shelter has donated office space to us for our outreach to the homeless. Before Thanksgiving, we collected 400 bags of clothes and more than 75 complete meals for the needy. We also recently held a telethon to raise money for hotel rooms for homeless families. At the telethon, we had a Santa and Mrs. Claus there for kids, and we gave out nearly 400 new toys we collected. Thanks to community donations, we were able to place two families and two single people in hotel rooms for a month. We assign “angels” to each person or family that we help get off the streets. These angels help with basic needs and getting people where they need to go. Other people we help get into shelters.
Giving people kindness and opportunity is everything. I want people on the streets to know that there’s a huge group of people who care about them and are willing to do something to help. We’re going to keep getting more angels involved and one day I hope to expand to have chapters in other areas.
If you want to help The Homeless Angels or follow their efforts, visit Facebook.com/HomelessAngels.
I continue to go out at night after work at the General Motors Delta Plant and do whatever is possible to help. For one man, that was taking him for his first haircut in two years before he went to his brother’s funeral. For another, that was putting a call out on Facebook asking for size 11 boots and having a pair donated and delivered in under an hour.