Mario

Mario; Las Vegas, NV

Something I have been trying to implement into my way of life recently has been authenticity. In basic terms, this means authenticity in the relationships I form and the love I give. This dramatic change was inspired by Mario, a loving father, and newly homeless individual in the Las Vegas Valley. Never in my life have a met a father who speaks so highly of his son. The love and compassion that comes from his words and actions are easily visible to anyone he chats with. Mario is a 25-year-old Park City, Utah native who has become recently become homeless when his battle with substance abuse and depression defeated him. Unable to hold a job and falling into a deep depression from being unable to provide for his son, Mario turned down a dark path with drugs and alcohol. This resulted in him being unable to pay rent with the streets his only place to call home. For me, imagining Mario in such a dark place seems nearly impossible compared to the happy-go-lucky goofy individual I met at our Priceless Pop-Up Shop.

Mario’s saving grace was the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, a local shelter that actually let the Can You Spare A Story Family come down and pass out flyers for our event. (I am very grateful for this) The Las Vegas Rescue Mission provides a number of services for the homeless population including rehabilitation. Mario is so thankful to the Las Vegas Rescue Mission for helping him reach sobriety. He took part in their rehabilitation program that provides homeless individuals a safe substance-free place to stay, free meals, and training on how to continue life without substance. Mario’s motivation for reaching sobriety was his son with a goal to be the father he dreamt of being. Mario worried that if he didn’t get his life together his son would be embarrassed by him as a father. If he could say anything to his son, he would say that he loves him and he will be home soon.

Words cannot describe how truly grateful I am for meeting Mario. I can honestly say that he has had a profound impact on me and my way of life. I hope and pray for him to return safely to his son and provide the life he wants for him.

Thanks For Reading,

Sydney


Alice and Josh

Alice & Josh; Las Vegas, NV

When most people think of settling down and starting a family, a white picket fence and dinner on the table at 5 is usually involved. Sadly, this wasn’t the case for Alice and Josh. Alice and Josh moved from Georgia to the Las Vegas area in hopes of starting a new life in a new city. With their two young children by their side, they were forced on to the streets after their moving arrangements fell through. With no place to stay and four mouths to feed, Josh went on the search for a new job. Josh and Alice chose to keep their struggle for survival from their 2 and 3 year-old little girls because they didn’t want them to worry.

The couple is extremely grateful for local shelters that have provided Alice and the children a safe place to stay. Sadly, the shelter did not allow men, and Josh heroically slept alone on the streets. Josh is one of the most dedicated fathers I have ever seen in action. He talks of his acts as if it is nothing, yet he worked constantly to find work to support his family. Alice and Josh attended Can You Spare A Story’s Priceless Pop-Up Shop on July 29th getting new clothes for all members of the family. As they told me their story, I saw the strength and dedication of two young parents erupt right before my eyes. Josh had found a job where he could afford a space for the family in a few weeks time.

Both Alice and Josh say that never giving up hope in the Lord has helped them survive. I truly believe that their love and dedication for their children made their success a necessity instead of an option. The idea of having children on the streets is one that no parent could even imagine. The time that these individuals spent on the streets tested every bit of their strength. I am so grateful to have had the honor of meeting both Alice and Josh. If they are ever reading this, I want them to know that I admire them both more than they will ever know. I hope you think of Alice and Josh as you rest your head today happily knowing your family is safe tonight. Some people don’t have the luxuries we overlook, be grateful for what you have.

Thanks for reading,

Syd


Melissa

Melissa; Las Vegas, NV

Today’s story is extremely close to my heart. At Can You Spare A Story’s first event, “The Priceless Pop-Up Shop,” we met a multitude of individuals willing to share their stories to receive basic necessities. The event was not the only first for Can You Spare A Story that day, Melissa was the first woman to ever share her story without worry of taking a photo or being shamed. As Melissa approached me, my eyes immediately glued to hers and I could see a burst of hope within her. Melissa is a 49-year-old (yes, I said 49! I couldn’t believe it either,) who has recently received word of a new job after being homeless for the past month. A sad reality that many homeless individuals face upon being hired is not having clothing, toiletries, and transportation to perform the tasks expected of them. This was Melissa’s reality, she had to call in sick to her first day at her new job because she did have any clothes other than the ones on her back. July 29th, 2017 was Melissa’s first day of work and it was also the Can You Spare A Story Priceless Pop-Up Shop. Melissa stumbled upon our event on the perfect day, she received new clothing, shoes, and toiletries to start her new job.

As she approached the table to share her story, I saw someone broken come back to life. Her skin was glowing and her smile spread ear-to-ear, this moment was the reason Can You Spare A Story was born. Her happiness was contagious as she laughed with the other women she travels with. It takes a strong woman to survive on the streets and Melissa does this flawlessly. She walked strong with her shoulders back strutting confidence, an action many women struggle with. Having confidence is a major issue. I, as many others have struggled with having confidence for many years. Curious for the answer myself, I asked Melissa her secret and she replied, ” I never lost faith in life.” These words have stuck with me ever since, it truly is that simple and I hope you learn the same lesson I did from Melissa.

In asking Melissa how she survives on the streets, she answered simply by saying she does something productive every single day. Her daily task worked to keep her on the right track back to a normal life. Whether that be looking for a job, finding a shelter, or begging for food. She travels in a group of 3 other women, all of them dedicated to keeping one another safe. She told me that you have to put in effort to receive things in life, no one is going to hand you exactly what you need all the time. Her other words of wisdom included being willing to accept services without fear of shame. I loved this idea, never feel lesser for taking what you need. Melissa has made use of free bus passes provided by local shelters to go to and from work. I wish Melissa nothing but the absolute best in her new adventure. She truly is one of the strongest women I have ever met, if you’ve met my mother you know this means a lot. I cannot thank you enough for reading Melissa’s story. Please be sure to subscribe using the menu bar to your left to keep up with stories!

Thanks,

Syd


Joe

Joe; Las Vegas, NV

As American skies are filled with bright pops of fireworks and American flags majestically soar celebrating our independence, our veterans are the ones we should be celebrating. In honor of Independence Day, today’s story is of a homeless veteran named Joe. Joe enlisted in the military after his 2 beloved daughters were killed in a car accident. Joe’s children gave him his life purpose and without them, he felt lost in the world. He felt that serving his country could help him cope with the devastation and loss.
Joe was born and raised in Kansas, where he spent most of his days fishing, hunting, and camping. Today, he uses the skills he learned as a young boy to survive on the streets, as he is facing homelessness. Joe has been homeless in the Las Vegas area for the past 12 years, staying within the caves of the Red Rock National Park and living off the land. For his basic necessities, Joe rides his bike down Charleston and panhandles for money and goods. To stay cool within the summer months, he leaves a wet towel around his neck and constantly keeps up with water.

Joe spent 34 years of his adult life working as a truck driver traveling around from state-to-state, following his next adventure. Since being homeless, he has traveled around the world by hitchhiking with truck drivers. Through Joe’s travels, he has found a profound understanding of the world around him and has become extremely wise. Joe told me that the key to being homeless successfully is by using public restrooms to stay clean, by washing his clothes and remaining well-kept. He does this so that he can fit in in social situations and not be asked to leave public places. He called this going “unnoticed,” saying that if you don’t look homeless, places of business cannot kick you out. Joe has multiple encounters with the police due to panhandling. He made a good point asking, “If I cannot beg for money on the streets, will they be willing to house and feed me?” Joe explained to me that, consumerism is having profound effect on the way we live. He said that so many new cars drive by him, avoiding eye contact and offering no help, yet the people with beat up cars in most cases are the ones to lend a dollar and a smile.

Joe told me that the best gift he has ever received on the streets was a tent. This offered Joe protection and a place to call home throughout the night. Sadly, after 3 weeks his tent was stolen while he was out for the day. In telling him about the Can You Spare a Story Priceless Pop-Up Shop, he said that it was wonderful, but the homeless truly need items like tents and can openers to survive. Joe wishes that the world would stop labeling and degrading him due to his homelessness because anyone could be in the same situation in one simple paycheck. He wants the people in the world to open their eyes and stop caring about what others think, and instead provide for those who have nothing at all.

By spending an hour or so speaking with Joe, I found him to be one of the wisest and kindest human beings I had ever met. He does the unimaginable on an everyday basis and has been doing so for 12 years. His kind smile and motivational words made me realize how unimportant the material items in life are and how conversation should be valued. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have met Joe and wish nothing but the best for him on his next adventure.


Tony

Tony; Las Vegas, NV

Today’s story is of a warm-hearted, always smiling, country-boy named Tony Homes. This small town boy from Arkansas came from his small town of 2,000 people to Las Vegas, a city of roughly 624,000 people. Feeling stuck working as a painter and handyman, Tony left for Las Vegas with 10 dollars to his name and a whole lot of hope. Since landing in Las Vegas, he has met his right-hand man and best friend Rick (who is really shy and didn’t want to share his story). He says they complete each other. Tony is very out-going and ready for fun while Rick is extremely quiet and rational. Together they make the perfect team! They have spent the last 5 months making their way around the valley, living on the streets and taking in all Sin City has to offer.

The craziest part of it all is that Tony is loving every second of his life on the streets. When many of us would crack under pressure, he is making the most of what life has to offer. With an ear-to-ear smile on his face, he explains to me that in life you just have to love people and love life because you can’t when you’re six feet under. He does everything in his power to make every day the best it can be and I think this is something each of us should incorporate into our daily routines. When I asked him what the hardest part of living on the streets was, he replied by saying, “Life can try to bring me down, but she can’t beat me.” He says, “everything on the streets is a little harder, but it isn’t impossible… Getting a shower and feeling clean is the roughest part.”

Tony has made many friends on the streets and has become a part of the community. He doesn’t have any blood-related family after his two daughters passed away and he lost his mother, who he wasn’t close to. He makes friends with those around him and makes everyone feel safe and welcome in his presence. Tony was not my normal story, he was very interested in me and hearing why I want to do what I want to do with Can You Spare a Story. He listened attentively and seemed to really care about the cause of ending the stigma against the homeless. Tony reminded me why I can’t give up on this goal, but little did he know, he is the real reason why I do what I do.

Thanks for Reading,

Sydney


Patrick

Patrick; Las Vegas, NV

Patrick is a special kind of human, the kind I aspire to be, one that has faith no matter what obstacles are thrown his way. Patrick is proof that life can change in a blink of an eye. One year ago, a 52-year-old husband, father, and minister came to Las Vegas from Cleveland, Ohio to find his wife with another man in their family time share. Heartbroken and confused, Patrick had no way back to Cleveland and no money to survive. He has been homeless in the Las Vegas area every since. When most people would feel defeated questioning the faith they follow, Patrick stayed true to his beliefs and continues to pray each and every day. He told me that he prays for God to helps those who help him. While standing on the street corner talking to Patrick, I was distracted by a tiny upbeat voice from a young boy in the back seat of the approaching car. The boy said ” Excuse me mister, I have something for you” and his tiny hand held a five dollar bill. I was so impressed to see so much compassion for the homeless from someone so young. I think more parents should teach their children to be so kind.

Patrick is currently begging on the street corner to pay for a plane ticket home. He has made enough money to afford to have a cell phone to get into contact with his 32-year-old daughter. They are currently working to do everything they can to bring him home to Cleveland. When I asked what he would want his family to know if they ever read this he simply stated that he misses them and will do anything to come home to them.

He explained to me that it’s ironic that he is in the place he is today because as a minister he traveled all across the United States from Miami to Seattle working with shelters to improve the way of life for the average homeless person. He now is being assisted by similar programs from local churches within the valley. Patrick told me that people provide for him, whether it be money, food, or even work. He has made friends with a few regulars who have hired him to do spot work around the house. Patrick lives by John 3:16 and continues to spread the word of God to those around him every day. Patrick is one of those individuals who makes everyone feel at home simply by just being a good person.

Within five minutes of meeting Patrick, I knew his determination, patience, and honesty would lead him home. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have met Patrick. I hope he gets home safe and back to doing what he loves most… spreading the word of God to those in need. I hope this story makes you wonder who you are driving by on your daily commute.

Thanks for reading,

Syd


Darrell

Darrell; Las Vegas, NV

In recent days, it feels as though everything around me is telling me to give up my dream of stopping the negative stigma attached to homelessness. My camera that originally started the Can You Spare A Story journey was stolen out of my car leaving me with no chance to create the quality content I expect of myself. Sometimes in life, you have to face the facts and step up to the plate so I said goodbye to a good chunk of my saving and hello to a brand new camera with high hopes of changing the world.

Today’s story is of Darrell, the ex-marine, and Georgia native that recently had his life turned upside down. Darrell always dreamt of being in the Marine Corps, he wanted to serve his country and be a man his mother would be proud of. When that dream became a reality and Darrell became a marine, he had a rude awakening that this was not the life he wanted. After serving for what seemed like an eternity, Darrell was honorably discharged and sent home. In Early 2016, Darrell and his brother moved out to Las Vegas to have a fresh start in a new city. Darrell and his brother were inseparable, they had done everything in life side-by-side. Six months into their beginning in Las Vegas, Darrell’s brother passed away due to heart failure. Heartbroken doesn’t even come close the express how Darrell felt about the loss of his brother.

Today, Darrell is living in a homeless camp on the west side of Las Vegas. He spends his days begging on the street for anything to help him get by. He mentioned that the hardest part of being homeless is trying to avoid being arrested for trespassing. I asked about shelters in the local area, and he said that they are over-crowded and unsafe. On multiple occasions, he has had things stolen from his bag while eating at the shelter. He has developed a one man wolf-pack identity and works best on his own. Darrell still always has a smile on his face and continues to work towards happiness each and every day. He wants the world to know that he is just a good, honest, hardworking individual. Part of his daily routine is reminding himself of his worth, this is something I think many of us should include in our daily lives.

Darrell is a perfect example of a reason the negative stigma attached to homelessness needs to cut off at the source. The general public is resistant towards a man in need who simply trying to get by. I hope this story reminds you that the dirty faces judged on the streets are human beings just like you and me. I would like to start a new trend, the next time you give money, food, water, etc. to a homeless individual share a photo or a status using the hashtag #canyoustopthestigma to be feature on Can You Spare A Story. By sharing your photos and encounters you will work towards stopping the negative stigma and encourage others to be the change they wish to see in the world.

Thanks For Reading,

Sydney


Jared

Jared; Phoenix, AZ

In life, it is easy to lose track of the big picture. The work piles up, the calls flood in, and the days pass by. Meeting Jared was a reminder of why I need to continue with Can You Spare a Story. Although sometimes the work doesn’t seem to produce the expected outcome, I have one single mission: To provide homeless individuals a voice to share their stories without fear of judgment.

A few years ago, you could find Jared working as a server at the most magical place on earth.. Disney World. He was working hard and falling in love with a woman who was going to bring him out west. He would leave his life, family, and work all in Florida to start a new life out here in Phoenix. Sadly, things did not work out with Jared and his girlfriend and he was forced onto the streets. Today, you can find Jared on Camelback and Central begging to survive. It is crazy to think what can happen in a few years time, I ask you to consider this next time you see someone begging on the street. That person could easily be you.

The pain in Jared’s eyes shook me to the core. He has lost everything, sitting on the streets with a college degree. Jared recently had his ID stolen, he is unable to get a new form of identification without two other forms of identification to prove who he is. This has been major setback in the fact that he cannot get a job without an ID. When I asked if he could reach out to his family, he broke my heart by saying, “they would be disappointed about how I turned out.” The streets are lonely and with no one to trust, Jared is alone in the world. He told me a story of how a man recently yelled out his car window, “get a job, you f***ing bum.” I was taken back on how one human being could be so awful towards another human being in need. When he saw the disgust in my face, he said, “No one plans to be a bum, Sydney.” His words have rung over and over in my head over the course of the last few days. It is no one’s life plan to be on the streets begging for their lives, sometimes life just takes the wrong turn.

Jared has recently found a place that provides him with a place to shave and shower. When I asked about shelters, he said that they are dirty and that he has had things stolen. Jared told me that the hardest parts of survival are begging for food and finding a place to sleep without being robbed. Could you imagine laying your head on cement each night praying you won’t get mugged in your sleep? As you lay your head down tonight, be grateful for the pillow your head rests upon and the locked doors you sleep safely within. It is easy to lose sight of the little things to be grateful for, I hope Jared’s story has affected your perspective. Please be sure to share this story with friends and family, your support allows me to give the homeless population a voice.

Thanks For Reading,

Sydney


Blake

Blake; Phoenix, AZ

Today’s story is different than anything I have ever done on this blog, mostly because Blake is not homeless. The last few months of my life have been dedicated to Can You Spare A Story, working hard to share the stories of the homeless population. Passion projects are an art form, some stem from negativity others from positivity. After meeting Blake in a downtown Phoenix coffee shop I felt compelled to share his story.

Blake’s shirt reads “Change Maker” and he is exactly that, Blake sufferers from severe PTSD after being sexually assaulted in his own home. Blake was attacked in the middle of night by 3 drunk men who broke into his home and sexually assaulted him changing his life forever. When the police arrived, the story was 3 against 1 as the men insisted it was simply a misunderstanding. The following months left Blake in a deep-rooted depression with no justice served his safety was never insured again. Blake struggles every single day with nightmares and triggers of that horrible night.

One late night changed Blake’s life forever, for the first time in a long time Blake found laughter while watching The Steven Colbert Show. This show got him out of his darkness, something he had struggled with for a long time. The next day strolling through Staples, Blake had a idea that would change his journey forever. He chose a literal blank canvas, a white poster board, to petition his way on to the Steven Colbert Show to tell his story.


As of February 10th, Blake has been approaching strangers to sign his petition boards  for the last 457 days. He has gone through 307 boards and has a total of 21,065 signatures and counting. He has found therapy in sharing his story with strangers, little did he know I have a passion of sharing others stories with the world. In our conversation, we spoke of how life happens and how that is presented through his boards. Not only are these boards covered with messages of love for Blake on his journey but baby spit up, coffee spills, and even the occasional drop of blood or two.

Blake fights his PTSD on an everyday basis by being vulnerable and telling strangers something you think would be his deepest darkest secret. Blake hopes one day to present these boards in an exhibit, showing the world how community can heal just about anything. Blake is currently working towards doing a TED talk at Grand Canyon University in the upcoming months. Blake puts his heart and soul into this project every single day, and  I need each and everyone of you to help Blake get to The Stephen Colbert Show. You can follow his movement on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Blake-Late-Show-1480994415541825/.

I have never met an individual with such a kind and open heart. Blake works hard each and everyday to tell his story, just as I work each and everyday to tell the stories of the homeless population.

Thanks For Reading,

Syd


Gabriel

Gabriel; Las Vegas, NV

I have spent a lot of time with this story trying to provide a walk in Gabriel’s shoes for all my readers.Many of us take the lives we live for granted, without realizing that homelessness could be right around the corner.A few months ago, Gabriel set out on a journey he had been dreaming about. He would be leaving his family and old home in Phoenix to start a new life in California. Gabe set out on his journey without a care in the world, just him and the open road… that was until his car broke down in Henderson, NV. Without the funds to fix his broken car, he began walking the streets of Henderson towards downtown Las Vegas as his car got towed away.
Gabe’s life went from a fresh start to homeless in a matter of hours, the towing company was asking $400.00 to release the car and in an instant… Gabe was stranded.

Gabriel’s journey hit a huge bump in the road and instead of a new start of freedom, it became a fight for survival on the streets. He started out looking for cheap hotels to stay in till he found work, but the hotel bills kept piling up. Without a dime to his name, Gabe was left sleeping with one eye open on the streets. He mentioned to me how grateful he is to the casinos and big businesses that come downtown to feed and provide for the homeless. He never expected Las Vegas to be such a giving community, he explained to me that strangers provided and granted him faith in humanity.

When I asked Gabriel what some of the biggest obstacles on the streets are, he answered, “staying warm and away from the crazies.” We talked about how the stress of the streets can cause people to go crazy. Imagining myself in this situation made going crazy seem understandable. When you are homeless, you feel like a constant outcast with the world against you. Gabe travels light, he carries his life around in a single backpack to make travel easier. My conversation with Gabe was short and sweet but I am grateful for the time we had. Gabe is a man on a mission and I know he will make it to California in no time.

Gabriel’s story had a different effect on me than any other story I have shared.  it’s the idea that homelessness is much closer than we think.With a lost job, injury, or disaster,  anyone could be that dirty face you pass on the street. I want you to take this into consideration next time you see a homeless individual begging, this could be you if something was to happen.

Thanks For Reading,

Syd


Red and Rebecca

Red & Rebecca Las Vegas, NV

As my final days in Las Vegas come to a close, I had the pleasure of meeting Red and Rebecca before I head back to Phoenix. Never in my life have a seen a couple laugh and smile as much as I did with these two. Their genuine connection was electric and left me feeling giddy. Red and Rebecca met 5 years ago on the Las Vegas Strip. At the time, Rebecca had been known as the lady with the cat wearing sunglasses.

Cheddar has since sadly passed away, but he was a beloved celebrity in his life. Rebecca’s cat had groupies from all over the world and was even mentioned in the Las Vegas Review-Journal (which you can find here). Cheddar was reported to bring in the big bucks for Rebecca and her daughter to pay the bills. Prior to meeting Rebecca, Red traveled America by hitchhiking. He said to me, ” I could throw a dart at the map and go there”. I loved this, the freedom of not being held back. The last place Red ended up was Indiana before he put his traveling days behind him.

In recent days, Rebecca and Red are living on the streets trying to make the most of day-to-day life. Together Red and Rebecca have 5 cats who they cherish. Rebecca even joked saying ” They get fed before we do”. When asked what the hardest part of street-life is they answered, trying to find a space to sleep without trespassing being an issue. Rebecca is said to be a “cardboard architect” creating elaborate cardboard shelter for the two to stay warm as the winter nights cool down. Rebecca and Red are two very fair individuals who believe if you earn it, you get it. Each and every day, Red and Rebecca walk the streets trying to make money to reach their daily goal to survive.

Sadly, addiction and homelessness go hand in hand. Drugs are easily accessible while on the streets and seem like the only way out. Red and Rebecca have been struggling with addiction on and off for a while. Addiction is a disease many will never understand unless put in the situation. I hope and pray these two continue on their journey to sobriety, I would hate to see such amazing people be defeated by such a terrible disease.

Thanks for reading,

Syd


Kendra

Kendra; Las Vegas, NV

15 is far too young to be thrown into the world expected to be an adult. After meeting Kendra, I was astonished on the findings I found within myself throughout our conversation. When I was 15 years old, I struggled with self-love, worried about what the cute boy next to me in algebra thought of me.When Kendra was 15, she was worried about whether she was going to make it or ever be loved again.Kendra originally lived with her mother in Santa Clarita, California. When she was 15, Kendra and her mother got into a huge argument which resulted in Kendra’s mother pressing charges and kicking Kendra out. Kendra was placed into foster care was she was 15 years old, feeling as though the whole world was against her and didn’t want her to succeed. When she was 18 years old, she was pushed out of foster-care expected to be prepared for life. She had an aunt who lived on the streets and taught her the ways of street-life. Kendra’s aunt introduced her to a young man who had been a part of her street family and Kendra instantly fell in love with him. Kendra is now a free-spirited, kind, and beautiful 20-year-old girl living on the streets. She is currently hitchhiking her way a crossed America for the second time with her soon-to-be husband.

With modern-day news stories becoming more and more cruel, hitchhiking seems like a thing of the past. Kendra showed me that with hitchhiking, you have to believe in good people. While traveling the roads of America, Kendra has met some of the most influential and interesting individuals. But the part I was most intrigued by was how she spoke of falling in love with each city they came upon. In the modern day world, very few people get the opportunity to simply explore due to the fact that they feel the need to grow up. Instead of spending life exploring every inch of America, we choose to go to college, get a good-paying job, and start a family. The American dream of yesterday seems to be taking over the explorations of tomorrow, Kendra opened my eyes to a new horizon. What if there is more to life than making money and settling down? The life of adventure that you read about in storybooks could become your life if we just gave up the American Dream.

Of course, in reality, the discussion of safety always has to come into play. As a woman in the modern day world, it can be especially dangerous to simply jump in a car heading the same way as you. When I asked Kendra about this, she has nothing but faith in people but always travels with her fiancé to ensure safety. She spoke of how the world is scared of trusting strangers and if we were all a little more trusting of one another hitchhiking wouldn’t seem like such a crazy idea. I admire her faith in humanity and how she takes every day by storm. Kendra’s hitchhiking days are coming to a close in a final trip across the USA. These lovebirds have decided to start their lives in the up-and-coming city of Clarksville, Tennessee. Her excitement was contagious as she spoke of finally having a place to call home. They already have family and friends in the area and plan to find work in the new year. I hope for nothing but safe travels for Kendra and her fiancé on their final voyage across the USA. I hope they know how much they’ve inspired me to explore life through a different lens and maybe reconsider the American Dream.

Thanks For Reading,

Syd


Chris

Chris; Las Vegas, NV

Today’s story is the story of one of the most genuine souls I have ever met. A dedicated father whose eyes light up when he speaks of his four-year-old baby girl, Lacey. Chris spoke of his daughter like she puts stars in the sky, even whipping out a photo or two gabbing about the gorgeous girl. Chris is new to the homeless scene, after a falling out with Lacey’s mother 2 weeks ago he was forced onto the streets. Chris will see his daughter for Christmas and I promise you, he is counting down the seconds.

In recent days, it has been difficult for Chris to find jobs in construction. He mentioned that the union workers are offered the first pick of jobs, leaving little to none for non-union workers. Chris has purchased a pre-paid phone to stay up-to-date with job opportunities by panhandling on the side of the street. When I asked him what the most difficult part of homelessness, he said ” begging on the side of the street for money”. Chris has a strong sense of pride that makes it difficult to beg, I admire this and came to the realization that most people would feel this way if put in the situation.

Chris restored my faith in humanity. He told me that people provide, his sign simply states what he needs: food, water, and blankets. I feel as though the community sees those who are genuinely in need, just like Chris. On the streets, Chris has made a street family of some of the most humble individuals. He has made 5 good friends who would give the shirt off their backs for anyone in need. I asked of related family and he mentioned that two years ago, he lost his mother on Christmas Eve which started a downward spiral. Chris is focused on his goals and being an amazing father, I know that this is just a rough patch in his story. If he is reading this, I want him to know that I have nothing but respect for him and pray he gets back to working soon. I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet and share the stories of amazing people. I hope you keep these individuals in mind this holiday season and chose to share these stories with friends and family.

Thanks for reading,

Syd


Miss Jeannie

Miss Jeannie; Phoenix, AZ

Alas the holiday season is upon us! As I scroll through the “Can You Spare A Story” Instagram (which you can find here), I have been hit by a whirlwind of volunteer posts and I am so grateful to share the world with such inspiring individuals. The passion for community has a way of coming out during the holiday season, I strongly encourage you to get involved. If you chose to take advantage of the volunteer opportunities this holiday season, I would love for you to share them with me by using the hashtag #canyouspareavolunteer.

Today’s story is the story of Miss Jeannie. This Phoenix native has southwestern sass that will blow you away. But once you crack her shell, you realize that it’s all an act to ensure her safety while on the streets. Miss Jeannie became homeless in 2015 after a texting and driving car accident left her in the hospital with two ruptured discs in her back and medical bills piling up. At the time, she was staying with a boyfriend in Newport Beach, who had kicked her out after the accident, leaving her with thousands of dollars in medical bills. Jean was forced on the streets in extreme pain emotionally and physically, abandoned by a man she was madly in love with.

In recent days, Jeanie is begging on Phoenix streets to make it day to day. She says the most challenging parts of living on the streets is providing basic life needs and being a woman alone in this world. Jeanie choked up when talking about how her ex-boyfriend destroyed every ounce of trust she once had. Jeanie is a one man wolf-pack, unable to trust due to fear of being betrayed. She broke my heart by saying, ” I have no friends, family, or support”. Jeanie believes she has a guardian angel guiding her throughout life, protecting her from danger while on the streets. She spends a majority of her time at the library, constantly searching for new knowledge to better herself. In high school, Jeanie always wanted to be a teacher providing guidance to young kids to better the future. Jeanie has a kind heart, she constantly tries to see the good in people. She inspires me to be more optimistic in my day to day life, I hope her story has a similar influence on you.

Thanks for Reading,

Sydney


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


Kevin

Kevin; Phoenix, AZ

On a blazing hot Tuesday in downtown Phoenix, I met Kevin and his wife Terry(not pictured)both were over-heated, starving, and hopeless. My first question when meeting people in need is always “how did you end up here?”. Kevin and Terry moved from Colorado to Phoenix in 2010 leaving behind Terry’s daughter Mindy and Kevin’s son Josh. They moved hoping for a new start living with a family friend, a falling out between Kevin and the friend they were staying with over morals broke out. The friend kicked both Kevin and Terry out leaving them with the clothes on their back and the streets to call home. Once they adapted to life on the streets, they developed negative habits of the streets. Drugs and alcohol become apart of your everyday life. Kevin mentioned to me that a drug called spice turned him into a monster, he became aggressive, angry, and lost in his use. He mentioned to me a multitude of times that he was sober, that he was proud of the fact that he beat the drug scene. Terry talked to me about how hard it is to be a woman on the streets, how she used to get ready for work each day, do her hair, shower, and dress nice. She commented on my perfume saying ” you smell beautiful, I wish I could do that again”. Terry feels ugly and dirty, she says that people don’t see her as a woman anymore but a piece of trash. This broke my heart, I wake up everyday shower, do my makeup and hair, brush my teeth, and get dressed.. She doesn’t have the luxury of doing these simple things most of us take for granted. I asked ” what do you want the world to know?” They told me that they want to be considered as people, to be seen as individuals. Kevin said ” Everyone says, “oh just get a job.. Well I can’t get a job because I smell so bad people can’t be around me”. They also brought up the fact that they only have one set of clothes and when they get new clothes, the old ones get thrown away. ” We have no way to wash clothes, they are disposable.. I wear the same outfit for 3 days straight then someone will give me a new set” said Terry. I asked if they’d had any contact with family back home in Colorado, they mentioned that they have no way to get information of their loved ones. No addresses, no phone numbers, no Facebook.. Terry and Kevin feel alone in this world like everyday is beating them down. As I heard their story, I was reminded of how this could happen to any of us. As you continue on with your day to day life, I want you to think back to this story and see how blessed you are for a place to call home.

Every single night since meeting Kevin and Terry, I have prayed for their safety and sobriety. I hope you do the same.

Thanks for taking time to read,

Syd

Photo credit: JAK Photography