Shawn

Shawn; Tempe, AZ

As the days of November continue to fly by, I hope you are making a difference in this year’s Homeless and Hunger Awareness month. You can do this easily by sharing this blog, volunteering, or even offering a smile in your daily commute.. You can be the change you wish to see in the world.

Today’s story is the story of Shawn whom I met outside a small coffee shop while discovering more of Tempe, AZ. While falling in love with the artist vibe of the downtown area, I also fell in love with the genuine nature of sweet Shawn.

This Nashville native moved to the Phoenix area in the summer of 2014 for a job with Samsung. He thought this was his big break working with such a huge name brand would offer monumental results changing his life forever. Everything was working out as planned until he was laid off in January of 2016. Shawn lost his lease and was forced onto the streets within a month of being laid off. In the months following, he heard the heartbreaking news of his mother passing away. With no way to return to Nashville for the funeral or even to mourn with family,he fell into a deep depression where the world felt like everything was against him. He continuously told me that he never turned to drugs, but that alcohol was his vice and inability to collect money to purchase alcohol was the only thing that saved his life.

In a drunken stumble, Shawn went down forcing him into a wheelchair with a fractured ankle, this was his rude awakening that drinking was taking over his life. He mentioned that his father had similar issues during his childhood, and he didn’t want to turn into the man he used to fear. He has been placed into two half-way houses for a chance at a life of sobriety. I was in shock when he mentioned to me that half-way houses weren’t for people “like him”. My confused expression must have ignited something in him because he immediately explained himself, saying ” Half-way houses are aimed at drugs more than alcoholism”. As further conversation continued, we discussed the fact that the environment was so negative that living on the streets seemed like a more positive option.

The question of ” what are the biggest challenges of life on the streets?” always come up with the obvious answers. (Sleep deprivation, hygiene, hunger, etc.) Shawn had a different answer, the use of meth and heroin on the streets at a growing rate in the area. He told me that drug-addicts cause the most problems with their delusional thoughts and irrational actions. He travels in a group of a few close friends to remain safe from the outside world. He told me an old member of his street family got involved in the drug scene, a few months went by and he came back looking like a zombie.Blue bags under his eyes from lack of sleep, scabs on his skin from where he had picked, and holes in his arm from the use of dirty needles, a terrifying image of real-life results of drug use.

I hope you keep Shawn in your thoughts and prayers.

Thanks for Reading,

Syd


Joseph

Joseph; Tempe, AZ

As you read this story, I want you to take into account all the things you are blessed with. November is Hunger and Homeless Awareness Month, this blog was made to show the world that homeless people aren’t sub-categories, but individuals just like you and me but down on their luck. Please be sure to share these stories of homeless individuals to make the world aware of homelessness through the eyes of those struggling firsthand.

Today’s story is one of my favorites, you may remember last week Rocky’s story which you can find here , this is the story of his friend Joseph whom I met the same evening.

Joseph is a free-spirit you cannot help but be inspired by, this New York native came to Arizona in 1974 and absolutely fell in love. The always warm weather, diverse individuals, and the southwestern art drew him in. As of November 5th, Joseph has been sober 15 years. He became homeless after a toxic relationship took over his life, he has chosen to give up drinking and his wife of 7 years did not. He said that he would come home at 5 in the afternoon to find her passed out drunk on the couch, a life he has given up to better himself. He had a choice to stay in the toxic relationship and get stuck in his old ways or leave and never turn back. He has been on the streets ever since, accompanying friends like Rocky.

Since being on the streets, Joseph has fallen in love with biking and has totaled up 176,000 miles, which he proudly told me is about around the world 7 times. Tragically his bike has gotten stolen on the streets and he hasn’t been able to ride in the last few months. He mentioned that once he gets a new bike, he and a few of his buddies plan to ride all the way back to New York. His ambition and enthusiasm is widely inspiring,  a man who has been down on his luck begging for food, shelter, and water still has finds so much joy in such a small thing as riding a bike. It truly makes you think of what you take for granted.

Joseph and Rocky mentioned a homeless camp nearby, where they can sleep peacefully, sleep deprivation is one of the biggest issues they mentioned because they need to stay on their toes to make sure they don’t get robbed or attacked. A world of constantly having to be on your toes and never having alone time can be exhausting, just imagine not being able to go to the restroom privately. The life of the streets is one you’ll never understand until you’re forced into that situation.

Meeting Rocky and Joseph was such a powerful and inspiring moment, as I gather these stories I’m becoming more and more aware of how tough the world can be. As you lie your head on your pillow tonight, I want you to think of these stories and how easily you could be in the same situation, be thankful for what you have.

Thanks for reading and sharing,

Syd


Rocky

Rocky; Tempe, AZ

Stories of war heroes struggling to get by always break my heart. I had the pleasure of meeting army vet Rocky, a wheelchair-bound,homeless veteran who lives on the streets of Tempe, Arizona. I myself have never met someone down on their luck who has the spirit Rocky does.  Rocky moved to Phoenix in February of 2003 after serving in the army from’ 84-’94. He was never married and does not have any children, he has made the friends on the streets his family, a village of people who stand together even when the world seems like it falling apart. The way he spoke of life on the streets inspired me; as many people would be angry at the world, he smiles and continues on. I truly believe he is the definition of an optimist. As he sat in his wheelchair feeling stuck, he mentioned to me that many people take advantage of him because of his disability and that he is seen as weak. He told me that the hardest parts of being homeless are being sleep deprived, getting rid of bodily waste, and of course keeping up with food and water. One of my favorite things he said to me was, “Getting money to stay alive is the hardest part, but the lord provide.” He isn’t angry at the world for his inability to get back on his feet as many of us would be, cursing the world for our misfortunes. I know many of us would be doubting our faith if we were in the same situation, I feel as though this shows a huge part of Rocky’s strong-willed character. He mentioned to me that he is always sure to travel in groups, as many robberies have taken place. Following that he mentioned,” I’ve met some of my best friends and bodyguards on these streets”. I love the fact community has been made even when you wouldn’t expect it, showing that no one is truly alone in this world. We spoke of a homeless camp near the downtown area where him and his friend can rest their heads at night and will not be bothered. Rocky mentioned that having access to the light rail has been such a huge blessing, allowing him to get to the VA hospital where he will receive help with finances and housing. He is currently in the process of working out a deal where he could be offered housing rent-free for a month, which would allow him to work on getting back on his feet. Rocky is what I like to call a one-in-a-million, someone you meet and they have a profound effect on you, one very few people can have.

I am grateful to Rocky for him telling me his story, and he has become part of the downtown Tempe atmosphere, being on friendly terms with the police force and the VA office.The laughs and smiles that took place within the interview truly made my day. I hope you take the time to share Rocky’s story.. to show the world that not all homeless people are mentally unstable.

Thank you so much for reading,

Syd