homeless

'The Road I Call Home'

'The Road I Call Home'

The Road I Call Home is a joint project of Gathering Friends for the Homeless and 7 Billion Ones and features the photography of highly noted, award winning portrait photographer artist, Randy Bacon.

The Road I Call Home's mission is to build a new awareness about our relationship to homelessness and to each other - to give a voice to the voiceless and begin a conversation that will be a powerful inspiration for people to get involved with efforts to help the homeless and alleviating the problem within communities across the nation. 

This project started in Springfield, Missouri in 2016 and continues to grow as we are now chronicling the portraits and stories of homeless individuals across the United States. To date, we have captured the portraits and stories of over 150 individuals that have experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness, and are continually adding to the exhibit and story archive.

The Road I Call Home large scale portrait exhibition features over 40 images and stories that travels nationwide, including Photo Con - Oklahoma City, OK,  Photo Expo South - Little Rock, AR, Springfield Art Museum (2019), Saybrook University Annual Conference - Monterey, CA, Missouri State University Art Gallery, Drury University's Pool Art Center, Evangel University, Mercy Hospital + many more.

We strongly believe that every single life is valuable, that every person, every voice, every life counts, and we all matter equally. The homeless are marginalized individuals and communities that are often overlooked, feel forgotten, alone, unloved. This is an injustice and it is our job as fellow humans to seek truth, bring awareness and real, lasting change to the world, and to speak up for the voiceless.

With The Road I Call Home, you can read the heartfelt stories, experience the amazing portraits, and watch the corresponding short film about the beautiful individuals we call our homeless friends. It is our hope that you will see each person as the unique, loved, one-of-a-kind creation that they are, that you choose to treat the homeless with love and compassion, as you would others, and that you seek to make a difference in your community. If we all do this, big change will keep happening, people will join together, lives will change, and we can all be a part of making this earth we call home a peaceful, loving, beautiful place for all humankind.

 

CLICK HERE if you want to bring 'The Road I Call Home' project to YOUR community to feature the traveling exhibit in your area, and/or chronicle the stories and portraits of your homeless community.

CLICK HERE to be an important and necessary moving part of capturing the true lives of our friends on the streets, in all parts of the world by donating. Every penny helps us continue to chronicle more stories and portraits and fund the framing and printing for the physical exhibit to expand and touch more lives.

Georgeanna "Chapter 1 - Choosing to Live"

Georgeanna "Chapter 1 - Choosing to Live"

"I almost jumped. As I sat on the ledge, reflecting on my heartache, I began to think about my son. Leaving would not be fair to him. I had started focusing on all of my hurts and I became lost in it. I was only thinking about the overwhelming pain I had in my life.

I thought about how my son is doing so well and how he is making me proud of the things he is doing. My son is going places and I started thinking how lucky I am to get to be around to see that...."

GEORGEANNA’S STORY HERE

Sergeant Bobby "The Oklahoma Standard"

Sergeant Bobby "The Oklahoma Standard"

"I am Sergeant Bobby and I have been on the "HOT Team" (Homeless Outreach Team) for a little over two years with the Oklahoma City Police Department. The "HOT Team" works with the city’s homeless population, trying to connect them with housing and other services…in hopes of getting them off the street. Especially now with it being so hot, we also deliver water and other necessities, such as food, to those in need.

Our community is compassionate and I do think it helps a lot for our citizens to see the police force having a heart.

For the most part our community is supportive of the "Hot Team" and they’re also very compassionate towards the homeless and that is reflected in the many services and programs that are available to help them. Plus, the money that’s raised to help the homeless every year is just phenomenal for what we do.

I would like to advise other communities trying to help the homeless and those in need in their communities to not give up. You know, sometimes you’ll run across people and they’re very content with their situation. I think that was the hardest lesson for me to learn coming over here. You find a homeless veteran in the woods and you know the VA has a place for them to stay that night, they don’t have to live in the woods, but for whatever reason you can’t get them to make that change. You’ve kind of got to understand that it’s a lifestyle and when they are ready for help and ready to make a change, as a community you have to be ready to help them out. Ultimately, I think everybody always deserves another chance."

Read Sergeant Bobby's story HERE.

Caitlin "Never alone, Never Afraid"

Caitlin "Never alone, Never Afraid"

Have you ever just wanted to give up in the face of fear, pain, loss and hopelessness? Caitlin has faced many battles in her life and is still fighting to get off the streets, to live a full life, to provide for her kids, to bring hope to others..even in the midst of the struggles she is facing and the pain she has endured, she refuses to let fear run her life. 

Read Caitlin's story here.

Jennie's Story "Homeless, Not Worthless"

Jennie's Story "Homeless, Not Worthless"

So I became homeless with a broken leg and pretty much out of my element. I was scared. I was really scared. One thing I’ve learned, though, is that we’re a lot tougher than we give ourselves credit for. We’re a lot more resilient and we adapt. I adapted. It hasn’t been easy, but I have become a better person because of it. I’ve learned a lot of ugly truths about myself. 

Read Mama Jennie's story HERE.

Tommy

Tommy

"I’ve been homeless now for six months. This is now longer than I would have ever expected to be homeless. I lost my job, and I figured I could just get a new job, and it’s turned out to be harder than I expected. Now being homeless, I also keep losing things, you know, having them stolen from me. This causes me to lose my hopes of being able to keep a job or something because it’s hard to keep a job when you haven’t got the phone, you know to get the work orders and things like that. You really can't fully realize what is gonna happen in the future. A lot of what happens is many different things you could not have thought of, like being homeless, by just the circumstances of life.

The hardest part about being homeless is that I am not able to help other people. Seeing other people homeless and wanting to do something for them and maybe give them a place to stay for the night or a ride or something like that. It’s just hard for me because I like to help people.

When people see me, I would like for them to know that I’m not this way normally. I do have aspirations in life, to have a home, to pay my bills, to just be a part of the human race - the “normal” human race. What we’re all expected to be, to work and get our own food and I want to be part of that.

Being homeless, though, has taught me many things, including not be so proud and prideful to think it could never happen to you, because you’re just a step away from it every day. Something can happen, someone can die in your life, sickness could happen to befall you, thousands of reasons a person is just a step away, every day of his life from being homeless. You should never take the good days for granted. Appreciate the moments. And be thankful. And be thankful for the bad times too.

My dream is to get off the street. Be able to give back for things and opportunities I’ve been given. And things people have helped me with and everything, I’d like to be able to give that back to other people that need it worse than I do even to this day. I like to be able to give what I get for myself now to other people.

I would say to anyone, just be aware that homeless people are people too. That they care and they love. They’ve got families and everything else, they may just be broke up with them right now. It’s just a lesson from the father above. It’s something they gotta learn that they haven’t learned yet. Maybe when they learn that they’ll get set right off the street. I think God always has a lesson in our circumstances,. He’s just going to keep on trying to teach us this lesson, you know, until we get it. And then things change, that’s when our blessings come. Who knows, I may be on the street to help somebody. To learn something for myself or for them. I never thought I would be homeless, so that lesson there is one I never thought I’d have to learn."

(Story chronicled in 2016)

Jason's Story "It Starts With One"

Jason's Story "It Starts With One"

And I don't even necessarily care about myself, I get along fine on the streets, eat three meals a day without even getting welfare! But what about the old lady? What about the old man? What about the...someone who has a mental issue? It's a lot harder for them

Watch the short film, "It Starts With One" HERE.

Maranda's Story "Doug's and My Hope"

Maranda's Story "Doug's and My Hope"

The day I had my daughter, I pretty much became homeless. I was at my Mom’s when I went into labor, and after that I couldn’t go back to my house. We just stayed in the car, stayed at a friend’s house - I was able to sleep there most of the time at night.  During the day I just went places with the kids.

Read Amanda's full story HERE.

Darren's Story "Live Life To The Fullest"

Darren's Story "Live Life To The Fullest"

Being an ex felon, I ended up working a minimum wage job and still trying to support my kids. I also had to let my businesses go. I lost a lot of money and ended up homeless.  I was homeless for three years in Arkansas; almost three years in Missouri. I came up here to help my little sister, who is also homeless, get off the street.  Well, it's my baby sister. Gotta keep her safe, you know? 

Read Biker D's full story HERE.

Stephenie and Daniel's Story "Being Selfless"

Stephenie and Daniel's Story "Being Selfless"

You need to make memories - that’s what you need to worry about.  The people that we love and cherish - I mean, there are people who have lost their children and you can’t get that back. Being selfless.  If you can’t see past your own nose, you’re not going to get very far with happiness.

Read "Being Selfless" HERE.

Michael

Michael

"I’m originally from Lake of the Ozarks, in Missouri I moved in order to go to college and also to be reunited with my Mom - I’m adopted. So I moved up here without talking to her - I hadn’t talked to her for like 7, 10 years I think. So I wanted to see her, see how she was doing. Next thing I knew, I’m moving out of my foster parents’ area and moving up here to live with her. We try to take care of each other.

What led to my homelessness? I would say mistakes. I would say I haven't had the best choices but I wouldn’t say… my average is no more wrong choices than anybody else, but it happened at a rapid pace and at a wrong time in my life. So I, you know, ended up where I did unfortunately. But that’s just how it can go, I guess.

If I had it to do over, I probably would have gone through the red tape a lot more. Whenever it comes to FAFSA and stuff like that, ‘cause there’s college funding for people who don’t have the money to do it. But it required a lot of - I came from a foster home of 15 people, so whenever I went to fill it out it needed all kinds of social security numbers, and even though I wasn’t living with my foster parents, I wasn’t considered an independent. I think you’re not considered independent until you’re 21 or something. So unfortunately, between the ages of 18 to 21 - I was there when I was 20, almost there to where things would have been okay, but I messed up and ended up getting a DWI at .036 and there’s a zero tolerance policy because I was a minor at the time. I decided to have one or two beers and drive home and one thing led to another wrong choice, but… just one thing led to another and there are fines, and if you don’t pay your fines you go to jail, then, you know, in and out and in and out from there.

I would say the hardest part about being homeless is using a phone. Something simple like that. It’s just like, it’s not really that big of a deal, but it feels like a huge deal when you have to walk to the other side of town to do laundry at somebody’s house even though they said you can come over and do whatever you need - take a shower, eat, things like that, a place to store my stuff so it I can trust it won’t get stolen. You know, whatever it might be - but then it’s a task. Because I don’t have a car, and then you get there and nobody’s home. And then I have to walk. Just little things in life. I mean, people got things they got to do that doesn't revolve around me. And then people assume when I ask to use their phone that I’m doing a drug deal or that I’m going to steal their phone and that’s not the case. And you know, there’s no pay phones anymore. It’s all expected to be, you know, convenient. And convenient can be all the luxury you can get, but sometimes you have to look at it from the wrong side of the deal.

My advice would be to treat everybody like family. Because that’s the only way you can have a full life. Because life is about relationship. With others and with yourself. So you can keep living."

(Story chronicled in 2017)

Omari

Omari

"I’m from Fairbanks, Alaska - I don’t think I ever appreciated it like I should until I left. Now it’s like “there’s no place like home”. I’ll make it back sometime - almost all of my family is back home in Alaska. I haven’t seen them since March of 2001.

The first time I came to Springfield, Missouri was in 2004. I’ve left and then come back, and then left and come back. I have been homeless off and on - a lot my homelessness stems from being locked up and getting out with nothing and it’s sort of my lack of motivation to gain anything back. Sort of where I’m at.

I think a lot of the people that I invite into my life don’t always have the positive vibes that I need. That’s one of the things I’m working with. I used to look down on homeless people, but, being there? I think there are a lot of good people that just need a chance. You know, and not everybody is given that chance. I feel so fortunate, in my life, to have an advocate that is really trying to help me. Her name is Robin. I think I’d been a fool not to grasp onto it and take advantage of it. I just love being able to be free with Robin. With a lot of people in my life, it seems like there’s an expectation - a right way and a wrong way to respond. With Miss Robin, I’m just free and I can speak what’s on my mind without judgement. And I love it.

I can share my dreams - I am an artist. I love art. My dream to have my art in a gallery sometime."

(Story chronicled in 2016)

Kevin

Kevin

"I’m from Northern California - years of travel brought me out to Missouri. I have worked a whole lot of labor jobs like construction, roofing, you know, particular stuff like that. I have to say that I found the hardest part of being homeless was the mental - the intolerance, stress and depression. Also, taking care of somebody else besides yourself and the weather - hard to stay dry, warm. But it’s pretty easy to find shelter if you know what you’re doing.

Being homeless, I’ve learned some lessons over the years about living life to the fullest. Like learning that you're not the only one out there - learning that you can help someone else in the same situation, or maybe somebody who’s trying not to be homeless. I was homeless for nine years before I was able to get into my apartment.

You know, you need to keep yourself up. Hold your head up. Because people can humiliate you. You have to learn how to deal with humiliation, which is not an easy thing to do. But you have to sometimes - like I used to have to think twice, if somebody humiliated me, I’d have to think twice, or I’d hit somebody. Going to prison and stuff like that, you learn to sit back and take a self inventory of your actions, you learn how to figure a way around what they’re thinking. You don’t want drama, but then again, you can invite it also. By certain ways that you act. So you got to act accordingly. Which is basically life skills, for anybody. Sometimes being homeless, you forget. “I’m homeless so what - what are they going to do? Lock me up? That’s a joke.” It’s not a joke. Being locked up, you’ll never be nobody. You have to try and use your money wisely and then you try and figure out a way to not be homeless and be successful in life, which sometimes is not that easy.

* In 2015, Kevin tragically lost his fiancee, Petra, as the two of them were heading back to their tent on a cold winter’s night. She was hit by a speeding truck as they attempted to cross a busy street in Springfield, Missouri. Petra passed away four days later. The community reached out with an outpouring of love and support for Kevin during this difficult time, including helping him secure and furnish his own apartment. To this day, Kevin remains off the streets yet still talks with us about missing Petra and the special love they had. However, even as Kevin advises others, he too is holding his head up with a hope for a bright future.

Donnis "All Back To The Smile"

Donnis "All Back To The Smile"

 Advice I would give to others? The magic to all of it? It’s a smile. You know what I’m saying?  If you can’t find that, you got a problem. It’s not the world, it’s you. 

Read the full story "All Back To The Smile" HERE.

Lesli

Lesli

"I’m Missouri born and raised; born at home, on purpose, and almost ten pounds. My biological dad was out of the picture in our life and my mom got remarried when I was three. My stepdad was a super nice guy, but I’ve always been a bit of an “Ahole” and made sure he knew, every day, that he was not my real dad. But looking back now, he was my dad. He kept food in my belly, a roof over my head, and clothes on my back. I didn’t want for any necessities – they were all taken care of.

My mom…she is very manic and struggled with depression When I was older, mom told me she stood over my crib one night when I was only a few weeks old and being so depressed and sad because my dad wasn’t there that she said, “I just want to die but I can’t leave my baby Lesli here with no one to take care of her. So the only logical thing to do is to kill her and kill myself”. To my knowledge, no, she didn’t try to actually kill me. But I have never forgotten that.

I’ve been homeless for twenty years – pretty much since I moved out of my mom and stepdad's house as a teenager. I grew up Jehovah’s Witness, very sheltered and completely stupid about the real world outside church walls or mom and dad’s walls. I moved out of their house and into my own place and in that first two weeks I was out on my own, I experienced pretty much everything. I got drunk for the first time. I hung out with boys for the first time. I even experimented with a couple of different types of drugs for the first time. Everything was so new to me and I didn’t know what to do except what everybody else was doing. Shortly thereafter, with my new freedom, I found myself homeless.

The hardest thing about being homeless is not having a home that my friends can come to when they don’t have a place to sleep or a tent because someone stole it, because the racoons ripped it to shreds or because it’s too hot or they’re too sick because they’re trying to clean up. The hardest part for me is not being able to make sure my friends have a safe spot, a quiet spot, or a comfortable spot to come to when nothing else is comfortable or safe. However, I always try to help as much as I can and go out of my way to do this. Like, for example, I don't get food stamps, but I have fed an entire household of squatters from convenience stores and Little Caesar's dumpsters - hot pizza every night for all.

I also have carpal tunnel syndrome and neuropathy. I have nerve damage from surgeries and injuries, and my hands are what I call “no good” for most of the time. Like right now, they’re completely numb. Other times, they hurt so bad that I can’t even open my hands. However, I've learned - It can rain all the time. Just when you think you don’t have other options in life, sometimes, that’s when you just need to accept the fact that this what you have to work with and you have to make the best out of it, cause no one’s going to hand it to you. You have to put in the footwork. You have to do things that take you outside your comfort level just so you can be more comfortable than you are now and it sucks. One of my favorite phrases, “Sometimes we have to do things we don’t like doing to get the results we want to have.” If you want better, do better.

Thinking about this life I live, I can't help but think about Sugar Booger (her dog). She is my best friend here and I feel horrible because of my inability to continue to keep a roof over our heads, or you know, a bed to sleep in, blankets when it's’ cold…she’s having to live the exact same way. It’s not fair to her. She had nothing to do with it other than me being her human. She’s been a trooper. She’s the best little road dog ever. She’s walked so many miles and rode in my hoodie because it’s too cold for her. I try to pamper her as much as possible and everyone thinks it is completely ridiculous that we play dress up and I paint her nails. She’s a happy puppy and I try to make sure of that."

(Story chronicled in 2017)

Carol

Carol

"I’m from Lake of the Ozarks. If they had bus transits there, I would live there. But they don’t have transportation and stuff, you know? Springfield has more to offer. If I ever get on my feet, that’s probably where I’m going to end back at. I miss it.

I was a victim of assault - that is what led to my homelessness. I was camping with a significant other and we got into a fight and he commenced to beat me up for 30 minutes solid beating me in the head. I had 42 contusions alone on my head. And he left me. He pretty much stole my livelihood from me.

I’m just not physically able to do the work I’ve done before. I have a brain injury and I tend to forget a lot of things. I get confused. Herniated discs. Disability pending, hopefully - I just hired a lawyer. Hope I get something more done this time. I’ve been fighting for disability for about 3 years.

The hardest thing about being homeless is not really knowing what tomorrow brings. There’s no promise, no stability. And it’s hard. Some days you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. One of the hardest things is getting help - people abusing the system - sometimes taking advantage of the resources we have - making it hard for the people who really need it to take advantage of those things.

What I have learned is don’t take nothing for granted. Because it could be any one of us at any minute. 

(Story chronicled in 2016)

William's Story "Live Every Day"

William's Story "Live Every Day"

I’m homeless because I can’t really get my life together at the moment. Because of the death of my daughter.  It’s really hard to talk about.  At the moment, I just chose it. One of these days I’ll get my life back in order.  Which I had my life back in order until that happened. It was a blow to my heart.  It’s hard to bury your kids, man.

To reach Wiliam's story, click HERE.

Jamie's Story "New York Second"

Jamie's Story "New York Second"

"I go to Bass Pro Shop to see the fish, and see all these people walking in there with families and I go, you know, they have homes to go to and I don't.  When they leave here they have got somewhere to go.

To read Jamie's story and watch her short film go HERE

Charlie

Charlie

"I met my girlfriend in 2007 and have been with her since. I’m on the streets now because I have a drinking problem. I’m not allowed back in our home until I finish my program and get my act together. I have to take my medication and do groups cause I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, bipolar, and suicidal tendencies. So until I show that I’m doing what I need to do, I’m not allowed back into the house. Fortunately, we’re still on a good relationship and I stay in a tent in the backyard, which I don’t mind doing. Plus, then she can see me doing what I need to do to take care of my problems, including the abusiveness that I have. I am not proud of it, but I’m a verbal abuser when I get drunk and I’ve been told, not only by her, but by my family members that at times they wish I’d hit them, instead of saying the things I’ve said. I have to get this under control.

I have met a lot of really good people here on the streets and I’ve learned a lot of things I never knew before. I try to help as much as I can out here too. It would help a lot if I got a job, but it is so hard getting one now. The main problem I have with employment is my age. I’m 60 years old and I’ve been told many times that it makes no sense to hire me when within the next few years I’d collect retirement and leave --- that it makes more sense to hire someone in their twenties and keep them for 20-30 years. Plus, when they find out that you’re homeless that is pretty much the end of the discussion. You know, people look at you from the outside, not looking in to the type of person that you are.

I have been homeless for close to a year now. Things are getting better, because I’ve been doing my program. In fact, last Christmas, I was allowed to cook Christmas dinner at our home. Like I said, our relationship is getting better and I feel good about that. That’s great. That’s definitely a step in the right direction.

Being homeless presents many hard challenges. One major thing is finding safe shelter. Another is hygiene, because it’s hard to find a place where you can shower and also even do your laundry. Laundry and hygiene and shelter are three important things that the homeless really have it hard.

One thing I have learned from being homeless and everyone should learn is compassion. Be more compassionate towards people, especially the homeless. The homeless are not bad people. You know, we have a heart. We care also. You know, I wish people would show compassion, instead of running us off when we need to use the restroom, or tell us to get away from the front door of a business. You know, just be more compassionate. Show more compassion for the homeless out there. God forbid that one day you don’t end up in my shoes and somebody treats you the way you just treated me. We’re all just one decision, one paycheck away from being homeless.

My hope for the future is to be more supportive to my girlfriend and her family. Um, not just financially but more emotional and more caring. Like I said, that’s the one thing I did learn on the street and that is to be more compassionate to people. That is for sure one of the things I plan on taking home with me when I finally get back into the home.

The last thing I want to say is that I just want people to get to know me --- get to know Charlie, the person, not the homeless Charlie, or not the drunk Charlie, not the violent Charlie at times, not the Charlie with PTSD but get to know me. Yes, I would love to be the person that I was at one time before all of this but that person I’ve lost. And I'm working hard to get that person back. Until then just get to know me, Charlie, as I am now."

(Story chronicled in 2016)

CoCo's Story "Three Years Ago CoCo"

CoCo's Story "Three Years Ago CoCo"

There’s not one thing that led me to a homeless life. However if I had to say one of the main causes was that I was ill prepared for life by my absent, alcoholic, mentally psychotically abusive mother.

 

Read "Three Years Ago CoCo" HERE.

Chuck

Chuck

"I was born in St. Louis. I was raised up in foster homes in the Bootheel - is Sikeston, MO, that area. I have a sister that lives down in Branson. I moved to Mississippi and came back to visit, and she asked me to stay the summer to help her husband with the grandkids. Which I love, kids out there playing. I’m still a kid at heart. I just haven’t left yet. I was going to go back to Mississippi. I have a lot of good friends and, you know. Got a cat named CiCi and 5 kittens so I can’t just get up and go. Good old CiCi.

This time I’ve been in Springfield about 5 years. I used to be a traveller - I can’t say that anymore. I’ve been stuck in limbo here.

The hardest part about being homeless is the mosquitos. That and tornadoes. The mosquitos scare me more than the tornadoes! The sirens scare me more than anything. They make me nervous. But those mosquitos, I can’t stand them buzzing around my ears at night. Come up and you look like you have chicken pox or something.

If I could point to one thing that led to my homelessness, I would say it’s freedom. Really, it’s not a rat race world no more. You just do your own thing. No one trying to run your life. Basically, you know, I’m not very good with authority at all. At all - I’ve proved that over the last 20 years. But I’m a good guy.

Life lessons I’ve learned? Generally I would say have a heart. Share. I’m kind of quiet and sink into my own world. It’s not that I’m shy, I’m just quiet. I always check my territory out, my environment. But really, just realize in this world, be nice to each other."

(Story chronicled in 2016)

Mark

Mark

"I was born in New Jersey July 13, 1969, Sunday morning at 2 o’clock. I lived there until I was 5, and then I moved to Pennsylvania. I lived there until I was almost 40 years of age and came up here in 2009 and have been here ever since. It will be 7 years in July.

What brought me to Springfield was I was doing a phone operator job in California. I did it late at night - from midnight to 8 o’clock in the morning. After spending all night working, I met one of my clients. And he came down to my apartment. I picked him up from the airport, brought him down for about 2 weeks. We really got to know each other and then he moved down here to Springfield. We went here, we went there - I got to like him a lot. He says “let’s get something done”. I said “what?” “Move to Springfield.” So that’s how I got here to Springfield.

I went to college, I mean, in my day. But every time I went to college it was like there was a setback. I’m a straight A student - and every time I try to study for a career, something always happens to me. I’m thinking about going back because I’m working now full time. And a lot of people try to talk me out of it. Today’s a gift - what can you do to make a better future for yourself? We’re all here for a reason and a purpose. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Some people say “look at what my parents did” - but go stretch to the next level, don’t become a victim of life’s circumstances but rise above it like an eagle and soar and fly high."

(Story chronicled in 2017)

Lester

Lester

"I grew up in St. Louis, MO. A friend brought me here to Springfield, MO. It will be 17 years this December since I’ve been here. I’ve been dealing with homelessness off and on for probably 15-20 years. The hardest thing about being homeless is not having the reality of knowing whether you’re going to be safe or not. Whether you’re going to wake up or not. I’ve been homeless for awhile -homelessness is a cold, dark, lonely, non-loving place. It’s kind of like losing a loved one.

You walk out the door, go for a walk and you think about the things… the most thing that ever kept me going is when my mother died in my arms May 19, 1969. I was 15 years old. My father was a drunk. He was a wife beater, child beater. When my mom died, us kids were just sitting at the kitchen table, my dad was there, my sister, my two younger brothers. She looked at me and said “would you get me a glass of water?” So I got her a glass of water- as I walked toward her she fell into my arms and died. But I had listened to her beg my dad for hours to take her to the hospital - he kept telling her she had an appointment the next day. My dad was a rude, crude, cold hearted bastard. He could have prevented that. That really weighs on me.

I wish people knew that I do have a heart and I do care. I fall in love with people. Kind of like with this person right now. They kind of show that they care, but they don’t. They pretend to smile, joke around with you, have fun - their way of having fun. But it’s alright I guess. Have fun on somebody else’s dime or experience, and go from there.

My advice to others on living life to the fullest would be to make God your #1 choice and your family your second. Your kids, your grandchildren. The people you haven’t seen since 1969, like my brothers and sisters. I’d kinda like to see the family. I haven’t even seen my kids since May of ’88. And it hurts. But at the same time you keep that hope and you keep that… maybe one day you’ll make everybody happy. That’s what I want to let the world see. Everybody can be happy. Even though it might be in your darkest seconds of the day. Or it might be on the brightest sunny day. You can be happy if you just let your mind go and let it be free. But you can still be in the same thought of mind. You just deal with it the best way you can. You deal with people the best way you can. Sometimes you would like to knock their block off… And sometimes you just want to look up, raise your hands and say “thank you for the better place you gave me today”.

If there was just more love and kindness in this world, it would be a much better place… It would be. And I may not see it, but I hope my kids or my grandkids do. I love them until the day I die. I’ve never seen my grandkids. I only had my kids in my life for 5 years. I think of the things that could have been and should have been but they weren’t. And I think of the things I could have done better to make that happen. But it became too late. What the world needs is to really sit back and look at one another and have love, kindness and understanding. No matter who you are, no matter where you’re at."

(Story chronicled in 2017)

Jakki

Jakki

"On March 12th, 2012, I got my first house - fenced in yard, new school for my oldest son. Yeah, that was a great moment I started out on. I started out in the domestic violence shelter in 2008. In 2012, I got my first house. That was an awesome feeling.

And then things changed. It was just people not doing good things. My daughter’s father ran off to Texas with another woman two months after we moved here. Then my mother moved out after a fight. The lights were shut off on me and my kids and so I had to take my rent money and get my lights turned back on. Babies can’t not have t.v. - mine wouldn't go to bed. And that started my fall. The landlord didn't have much faith in me making the rent money since we didn't have anybody now. And true enough, me and my prideful self not needing anybody, not needing anybody to watch the kids, I became a not dependable employee and got fired and then I couldn't pay no bills so I lost my house. It’s been a very long 3 years.

The hardest part is really with my intelligence - I've become comfortable with being homeless because living outside there’s no rules, there’s no responsibilities, there’s no priorities. For that part, it’s not that bad. I take pretty good care of myself but I feel a sense of protection from being outside. Watching everybody else’s ups and downs. Being low one moment and being screwed up the next and doing things to hurt me. And knowing that seeing them every day when I walk past them knowing that they hurt because they’ve been done screwed up for whatever happened to them for that day, I can’t not love them. I can’t not show them that somebody is there and they care. Yeah, that whole stinking love thing - people keep telling me quit looking for it and for some reason I’ve looked for it for so long, since a little girl… It’s the only thing that I want. I could die happy or walk happy or… that’s another strong word - to be happy…. I just want to be happy again.

I do not know what my dreams for myself are right now. I know that I do wish to see myself back, head high knowing that I’ve got things together and that I can go home and I can close a door and leave it all outside. But at the same time, what’s the point in having four walls and a door when it’s empty? With no more babies crawling across the floor, no more young ones screaming, no more crying, no more giggling, no more cartoons. Nobody to cook for. I just don’t see a point. Yet for some reason I’m working on it, though. For the kids’ story of what happened so that’s not what they know of their mom in the end."

(Story chronicled in 2016)

Tim

Tim

"I grew up in the Quad cities, East Moline in Illinois. I came out to Springfield, MO because the Quad cities went downhill. Rock Island Line, John Deere pulled out, Case - a lot of companies went to heck in the late 80’s, early 90’s. So me and a friend of mine, we’d been fishing down here, so we weren’t doing nothing else, so we just moved down here. He ended up going back and I stayed in Warsaw from ’90 until last year.

The hardest part of being out in the streets is the cold. And, you know, you ain’t never get no respect. You never get no respect out of a lot of people - they look down their nose at you because you got a backpack, walking down the road. They don’t know me - why should they judge me? I mean, but, that’s the way life is nowadays. They don’t give nobody a chance first. It’s judge first, ask later.

I myself have only been homeless for 6 months. Danny and Chuck turned out to be good friends. They have helped me find some resources, some I’ve found on my own. I can’t rely on them, you know. But no, I’m very appreciative of them. They did help me when I first come down here, got started out on the streets. The longer you stay on the streets, the more you find out about them, you know. They told me where to get in out of the cold, you know, and then from then on it’s listen and pay attention.

A broken heart led to my being homeless. I was married for 20 years. I lost my wife and I just haven’t got over it. People pushing “Oh it shouldn’t be that way”… how do you know how my heart feels? I know they’re trying, but still, no matter how much they tell me, it ain’t what in my heart right yet. So, I just got fed up with it all and said “here, kids, take everything, and I’m on the road.” I’ll call them ever once in awhile, and when they start harping I’ll say “okay, I’ll talk to you next time I call you”. It’s that simple.

Oh I had everything at one time. I mean, I had the camper in the front yard. The house, the 2 trucks, the whole 9 yards. My advice is, you just have to go by your heart. What it tells you, do it. I’m happier now on the street than I was sitting in my house, being lonely. I mean, don’t think you gotta keep up with the Joneses. That’s something I learned a long time ago, though. And a lot of people do. They think they have to keep up with the Joneses. It breaks my heart that they look down on me because I have a backpack instead of a Mercedes. I mean, I’m still me. I’m my own person. I’m not no copycat. We all have a story. Everyone of us has our own story. Some good, some bad. The street’s my therapy right at the moment. It’s working for me right now.

Yeah, we got a camp cat and birds. I took a square cheese plastic jug and made a bird feeder. I hung it in the tree and we feed the birds. We’ve got the camp, we’ve got the cat, so , I mean - we’re set. We don’t have electricity, and sleeping bags are our heaters, I mean we survive, we’re alive. We still smile. I mean, I’m beyond thinking the world owes me something. I never thought the world owed me something. You know, I’m happy. As happy as I can be for right now. Until I figure out which way I want to go. And I don’t know yet."

(Story chronicled in 2016)

Pinky

Pinky

"I am 31 one years old and currently pregnant. I grew up in Lebanon, MO. Born and raised. I moved down here when I was 20. Married at 21, had my first baby at 23, and from there had 3 more kids. And now I’m pregnant with my 5th. I had a rough life - a lot of abuse growing up. My dad was not in my life a lot. I was raped, I was beaten, I’ve been through a lot. I got married at 21, got tired of it, and started fighting back. And stood up. I almost put my ex-husband in the ground. I got tired of his abuse. I’ve been homeless off and on for 5 years. I lost my dad 6 years ago. And my granddad. Now I’m just… it’s just been really hard on me. My mom - my stepmom- has got my kids. She has been there for me and understands how hard it has been for me. I am blessed to be me. And I’m also blessed cause I’ve learned from what’s gone on with me. I take care of everybody, I have a good heart. Unless you make me mad. I just - my life’s been rough. I’ve drunk a lot of alcohol, done a lot of drugs. There was a time in my life I had a really rough patch - after I lost my dad - and did drugs hardcore. Got to drinking really bad. Didn’t care about what was going on, didn’t care about myself. Didn’t care about anything. And now that I don’t drink, I’m a better person. I don’t do drugs as much as I used to. I have a blessed life right here. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve grown up back in the 80’s. I’ve grown a lot and learned a lot. It’s just the way I am.

 

Lessons that I have learned that would be good advice for others is to take care of each other. If you see people like me or one of my homeless friends, help them out, please. It would be great if the community would start helping out more. Help with the poverty. You guys, you know - check on them, or say something to them. I do it on a daily basis - I go by and say “Hey - are you alright? What’s wrong? What’s going on?” That’s my family too. I take care of them the best that I can. You know, if I ain’t got it, I will try and find it. I will try and find a way. I don’t care if it’s clothes, shoes, jackets, food… I don’t care. I’ll give it to you. It’s just the way I am. It’s just the heart I have.

 

There’s been a lot of people that’s been there for me through my pregnancies. All of my homeless friends. I take care of them, they take care of me. Whatever they needed, somebody to talk to, to vent on. Come to me. Ask me. I may have an answer, I may not. I’ll give you advice if I can. I help teenagers that need advice. I get called ‘Mama Pinky’ all the time. It’s a blessing. I love being called Mama. If they’re having trouble they’ll be like “Mama, I need advice”. If you just listen to everything that’s going on, pay attention to what’s going on - because if you pay more attention to your heart, you’ll know what to do.

Automatically you’ll know the answer."

(Story chronicled in 2016)

James' Story "A Most Awesome Dream"

James' Story "A Most Awesome Dream"

My dream is to have a little house and a wife. When I  would come home from work she would give me a kiss and I would see how the kids are doing and play with them.

Read James' story on holding onto dreams in the midst of being homeless HERE.

Melissa

Melissa

"I was 41 or 43 and I got hooked on meth, lost my children, was with a guy that was in love with meth and he ended up dying on me Easter of 2011. Springfield police department ordered me out of my home, boarded up the windows, and that’s how I became homeless. I had moved here after 13 years of being married to a man who was abusive in every direction you could think of. And then I got with my last boyfriend and his daughter died before she turned 16. He’s in Hawaii - trying to stay friends. My life has went stale. I decided to go to Oklahoma because I need to get up, dust myself off and continue. Otherwise… existing is wonderful and I thank God for my life. But to just exist isn't living, and I’m not living.

 

I just finished my degree in building and maintenance. I got off of probation for good behavior. 5 years probation in 2 1/2 years. I did make a lot of accomplishments. I’ve never had so many friends until I became homeless out here. I’ve even had jobs since 2011 and then with the economy the way it is, one day you’re sitting in your apartment late at night eating chocolate ice cream, and the next morning you're having to sleep under a bush somewhere. I did stay in a woman’s shelter - Safe to Sleep - because I don’t like small groups. Well, big groups and small spaces. And I’m a loner. I’d rather be by myself, underneath a tree, reading a book. That’s where I used to spend a lot of my time. That’s how I got through probation. I just read. Read, read, read. I had a book in front of me all the time.

 

When I first started off, I was pretty much alone. Just the loneliness of being homeless even though you’re surrounded by a group of people that know you and are supposed to be your friends - you’re still in a sea of many faces. I’ve looked at people and have honestly thought to myself why are they so phony, you know what I’m saying? Because people tend to only care about themselves -they don’t care about their brother or sister. I’m the type of person that will give you my coat. You’re standing there without a coat and I got a coat? I’ll go to my locker and get you a coat.

Always remember the person that’s breathing the same air has feelings too. You should always think of everything you do has consequences. People tend to be selfish and self absorbed. They don’t think about their actions, what they do to somebody else. I’ve always been a strong person - I’m not that person no more. I’m broken. See why I’m leaving? I know it’s not going to be easy and I’ve got a long road ahead of me. But it will be a blank piece of paper to write - just start writing a new story. I’ve never depended on anybody or put my faith in somebody so much. I don’t know who I am anymore."

(Story chronicled in 2016)

John

John

"In my life, I’ve been a welder, a machinist, drove a truck for awhile. Been all over the United States, into racing - we went everywhere. I enjoyed that I got to do that. Then it got to be too much - it’s a tough life. You don’t get too many days off, work at least 18 hours a day. I got burnt out basically. That’s when I went to trucking. My brothers were into trucking and they got me into driving trucks for years.

In the late '90's I was diagnosed with cancer. I haven’t been doing much since I came down with it. Boy, that took up years. Back in 1998 - took chemotherapy for 3 years, which was worse than the cancer. I would throw up every day, all day. I would have one, maybe two days a week where I wasn’t throwing up. But the good Lord healed me from that. So far I’ve been cancer-free.

With being homeless, I’ve found that the weather is the hardest thing to deal with. Like this last rain we had - oh, 7 inches of rain, me and 2 of my friends found this little bridge that was high enough up - where we were sleeping was under 4 feet of water. A city utility truck got stalled out down there, too. That’s how bad it was. It was raining like you wouldn’t believe - lightning and hail. There was a bridge close by so we got underneath it to get out of the rain. The lightning was tough, but we made it through the night.

I’ve learned some lessons throughout the years of being homeless. First,you’ve got to watch who you're hanging out with. There’s some really good people out there on the streets, and then there’s some really bad people. Gotta choose your friends wisely, gotta watch where you go. Like its not safe to go some places downtown at night. And there’s certain places down alongside the tracks that’s not safe to go. Like where me and my two buddies stay, most people know us, most people stay away, leave us alone. Not too many people come around. They think it’s too out in the public.

And the police, shutting all the campsites down has been hard on a lot of people. Some of them people, there can be 8-10 of them, and they just trash the place, they don’t clean up. Where me and my buddies stay, we try to keep the place picked up clean. Not have a lot of trash. That’s mostly what the public and the police don’t like - people just going in and trashing an area. Packing in stuff they don’t need, just leaving it. I can see why they don’t like that. That hurts the rest of us.

I’m here just trying to make it through life, not causing no trouble."

(Story chronicled in 2016)

John

John

"I was born in Neptune, NJ in 1971. I moved here with my family in 1975. We moved to a little town outside of Springfield - 26 miles west of Springfield off I-44. I went to school at St. Joseph Catholic school for grade school, then Springfield Catholic for high school.

This last time I was released from the penitentiary December 15th - I was on the streets until March 27th. In between periods of my parole when I would get out of the penitentiary, I would home plant to my mother’s home and start drinking and she would ask me to leave, so I would be out on the streets. So probably a total of a year that I’ve spent on the streets here in Springfield. At different times. The first time I did was in 2012, and then again in 2013, then again in ’14, and then ’15 and ’16.

The hardest part of being homeless was staying warm and fed. But you just gotta keep plugging away. And take the resources offered to you. I learned this as a waiter waiting tables in my 20’s - if anyone’s willing to give you something, take it. And there are so many places around Springfield that are willing to help the homeless. With food. One Door with housing. The women have a shelter every night. Just take advantage of things that you can and just keep working because something will happen. You’ll get into a place or they will find you a home, start fresh. I moved into the Salvation Army - I have a roof over my head. It’s a blessing because as soon as I get my medical issues taken care of, I can go look for a job and start living again.

My advice? Just survive, do what you can, and use the blessings that have been given to you."

(Story chronicled in 2017)

Pop's "People Forget You are a Human Being"

Pop's "People Forget You are a Human Being"

I have been homeless for four years and living in the cold is the hardest part of being homeless. This is my fourth winter, and whew, it's been hard.  Summer’s not too bad, but I can’t do the winters no more.

Read the full story HERE.

Lyzz

Lyzz

"I’m originally from St. Charles. I bounced back and forth between St. Charles and the Boot Heel for 7 1/2 years. I started couch drifting the first part of high school, when I discovered drugs. I got one taste and that was it.

I came to Springfield when I found out I was pregnant. I was kicked out of the shelter I was in and this was the closest one. The hardest thing about being homeless is finding someplace where I didn't have to constantly keep moving my stuff from one place to the other. Just having to move everything ever so often was killer. Really killer.

My advice to others about how to live life to the fullest would be to keep looking to the future, not always to the past because the past can’t be changed. You can learn from it, but you can’t change it. That’s the most said thing. The past is the past, the future is the future. Go for what you can achieve, not for what you have achieved."

(Story chronicled in 2017)

Joey

Joey

"I’d been homeless off and on for over five years, lived in my car, camped out, lost my car, camped out. My homelessness came about from a series of events. Totally a combination of things that happened within a fairly short period of time. And I had places to live off and on. I got jobs, then I lost jobs and got kicked out. Next thing I knew, I was camping off of the railroad tracks. And that really stunk.

 

There’s a woman who works with Hearts for the Homeless, her name is Devery. It’s actually through her church. She’s a Messianic Jew - the Gathering Friends had wondered what to do with me because I wasn’t getting better - I broke my leg in December of 2014. She put me up in a motel until I got my surgery, and then a few months later she found me a place to live. And I got this place and I got a job - I just can’t go back yet because I haven’t been medically released. Because of my liver failure.

 

Not losing hope is a very, very difficult thing. Because sometimes it seems like everything bad that could happen does happen to you. And you feel like no one gives a crap, even though there are people who love you and care for you and help you every day. You just get to that point that whatever can be done has been done, and there’s nothing else anybody can do. So just don’t worry about it. So, just go away. Whatever. Fade off. Just disappear somewhere. Which I never did. I never gave up. Even when I was homeless, I volunteered at the Gathering Tree, an organization that helps the homeless, a couple days a week. Having a purpose and helping others is a powerful thing, especially when your own life is not going so well."

(Story chronicled in 2017)

Cecelia

Cecelia

"I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana, but left 20 years ago. I have been in Springfield ever since. I was here 2 years before my son was born, which he turned 18 last month. I met his dad two years prior to his birth.

I have been homeless off and on since 2004. I raised my boys in the same house until 2004 and since then we’ve been homeless, me and my boys. We pretty much stayed in the same house. We lived in the same house with - I call him my adopted grandpa - for 8 years.

My kids have been by to see me in the new house. Me and my boys are very close. Actually my middle boy was taken from me when he was 11 by the state. I still today don’t know what happened - why they took him. I had never been involved with the state, besides for food stamps. I never really figured out why they took him. I jumped over ropes, I did everything they wanted me to do, and they still took him. But I hung on to the other two boys. My youngest boy will turn 16 this month. And I have one that is 22.

Lessons that I’ve learned and advice I’d give to other people would be to try not to judge other people because they’re homeless. There’s reasons why they’re homeless. There’s reasons like - we are who we are. People come to it in different ways. My homelessness is different from somebody else's homelessness. I’m bipolar. I guess that’s all I know. That’s one reason why I was homeless. I couldn't keep a job. So there are reasons why people are homeless. Some people just don’t want to work maybe. Some people are schizophrenic - they can’t help that. Some people just can’t find jobs. Judging is very big when it comes to homelessness and it shouldn’t be.

My dreams for the future are to be married again. I dream of having a home again. I dream of having family again. I dream of a man who would love me for who I am. Not for what I was during my homelessness or what happened to me during my homelessness. My dream is to be happy again and as of right now I am happy. I have an awesome boyfriend and we struggle everyday to find better for each other."

(Story chronicled in 2016)

Kacy

Kacy

"I’m from Tulsa Oklahoma, and I’ve spent the last year and a half out in Los Angeles. I’ve been going there for the last 6 years, and I’ve been back to Springfield, Missouri like 7 or 8 times.

I came back to Springfield this last time because I missed everybody I knew. In this whole town, I probably know like 500 people. Every single person that is homeless in this town, I probably know them. And I just missed it. I missed the familiarity. I missed all my friends, I missed everybody I knew. I missed saying “hey” or “good morning” or just being known. California is just so big, you just don’t know anybody. There are new homeless kids traveling in there every day. I just like things to stay the same. Don’t change, just be the same.

But when the weather gets bad here in Springfield, it’s hard to find shelter. When everything was flooded, I ended up staying over by the Rare Breed, by the side of their building. The rain was coming in sideways, so it got my whole bag wet. It’s just finding an awning. I don’t even think about tents. I was given a tent, and I gave it away to some people who needed it - to this guy and a girl because I’m used to just sleeping outside. I find a cubbyhole. I don't want to set up a tent, leave all of my stuff there, I just don’t trust that much. I carry all of my stuff with me everywhere. It’s hard. It’s hard to find shelter. If you find a tent, the next thing you know you put your stuff in there, and then somebody steals it, or it just gets tore up. It’s easier just to be on the go sometimes.

The hardest thing about being out on the streets is the lack of support. People you love. Stability. The hardest part about being on the streets is - yeah - sometimes it would be nice to just have one person believe in you. I was a troubled child, man. I have had convictions as a juvenile, had 7 felonies as an adult. I haven’t been in trouble for a long time. I stay away from trouble now. I don’t steal anymore. I don’t do anything. I’m too paranoid to get in trouble. I want my life to be good. I want to have a family one day. I’m 25 and I still have time. I need to make some progress right now. It’s about that time I need to go to college or pick up some trade. I don’t have to be rich - I just have to have enough to make it. When you’re out on the streets, a minimum wage job is everything.

Lessons that I’ve learned throughout the years - appreciate everything that you have. Appreciate your family. Appreciate your kids, your house, your car, your clothes. Your tight circle - the church you go to. Appreciate everything. I think when you’re made lower, and you’re homeless, you are made to appreciate everything so much more."

(Story chronicled in 2016)

Danny's Story "A Lot of Love"

Danny's Story "A Lot of Love"

If there was something I could share with people, it would be to have a lot of love in your heart. That’s it. ‘Cause I do. There’s been people that’s stole money from me over here - I ain’t going after them with a baseball bat, you know. Like one, he was my bro, I said “Man, if you don’t want to pay me, give me a pocket knife, something.” He still just avoids me. Oh well - if a friendship is worth $50, you can have it.

Read Danny's full story HERE.

Frederick

Frederick

"I was born in Muscatine Iowa. My ex girlfriend in Davenport, Iowa brought me out to Springfield. I’ve been homeless off and on since ’99. I moved here in 2010, I moved to Aurora. I was with a gal down there for awhile. Right now I am happily homeless. I have a homeless camp I’ve been staying here recently, but it’s about to move to a different location.

For me, the hardest thing about being homeless, with my bad knees and stuff, it’s just getting around. Actually the hardest thing for me is I don’t have my emotional support dog. I just need to get another one. I need a new dog. I’m not going to take it back from the little girl that my ex-best friend gave it to. I’m just not that cold hearted. That dog, she was my baby. I changed her life, she changed mine.

My advice to others is to be kind to each other. Basic morality that most people seem to forget. I’ve been on top a few different times. This is my fourth time being homeless - it can happen to anyone. No one should think they’re better than anyone else just because they’re not on the street. Some of the best people I know live on the street. The most kind, generous people you could meet. "

(Story chronicled in 2016)

Martha

Martha

Jessica (Martha’s Advocate): I work for Safe to sleep, I started working there about 6 months ago and Martha was probably one of the first women that I worked with. Safe to Sleep is an overnight shelter, but I work with the women during the day and try to help them find housing. So I just sat with Martha and helped her fill out paperwork… and we've just kind of continued on working together.

 

Martha: I was born in Indiana but lived in Florida most of my life.

I came to Springfield because my son lives here. I did live in Lebanon, but then I moved back to Florida.. and now I’m back. That’s why I’m here mainly. For my son. Right now I’m at a medical respite right now. It’s like a shelter for people with medical issues.

I was in the hospital with pneumonia and I would have had to go back to the shelter, but they had the respite and they recommended me for it. So I went there and I recouped there, and then they just kept me. So I’m still there. I stay overnight - I’m the night person - I just watch over the other girls there. I get up and feed them, and then there’s other volunteers that come throughout the day to help them get to their appointments and different things. And then I make their lunch and dinner, even though I’m only supposed to work at night. I cook for them and that’s about all I do all day.

Well, today we ran all over the city. I was in an automobile accident and I was trying to get my social security and trying to find the records, so my advocate, Jessica, has been running me everywhere trying to track down records.

 

Jessica: She's been applying for disability… she wants to work, but she just can’t. She's told me so many times “if I could just work” but she can’t… she can’t. So she’s applied for disability and just last week found out she was denied. Which is pretty common - so now she’s got to go through the hearing and all that stuff. Get a lawyer, appeal it. We were just trying to track down some information on the initial injury of her car accident. And sort of the salt in the wound for Martha is that she has an apartment she could take with the housing authority - she could say ‘yes’ and be in an apartment in a week. But it requires a rent of $40 a month - and she doesn’t have a disability check, and the stars did not align and it did not work out and there’s nothing… she doesn’t have $40 a month. And they just keep calling her and she keeps saying ‘no’. It’s just painfully difficult.

 

Martha: I couldn't get it done without her. Having someone to help you, like Jessica, is a gift.

(Story chronicled in 2016)

Marcus

Marcus

"I’m originally from Louisville, Kentucky. Went to school out there at University of Louisville for awhile until I didn’t know where I was going in life. So I went to go figure out life and maybe what I want to do for the rest of my life.

What brought me out to Springfield was a change of heart, change of mind of where I was in Louisville, and I had grandparents out on a little farm here in Billings, MO. So thought I’d come out and have a little sabbatical or sanctuary out here with them. Just got back involved with the faith with my grandma and my granddad and thought I’d just stick around, stay around. And then I found a girl to get involved with and came around and got married. Was around for about 10 years or so, then split ways. Had changes of heart. Then went through a divorce. Then got with my baby’s mama, who I’m with now and had the kids. We have 4 kids. Hopefully wife…fiance’ at this point.

My number one piece of advice is to remember who you are. There are so many pressures and persuasions and temptations to be what people think you ought to be and who they are and just different people. They mean well and they are well, they are just being who they are… but a lot of times it’s just different for them to see you being so steadfast in who you are and not wanting to change and do things differently. So I feel like I can come in and meet people, on the streets and the people helping us get off the street… it has been a challenge to stay true to who I am, but I’ve come through and even victorious in staying true to the spirit of who I am, the soul of who I am. And even making a little bit of an impact on others just a little bit of a philosophy and a way of living that doesn't keep you degraded and down and disenfranchised from others that we can still hold our heads high.

I’m a dreamer. I do have a dream. Sometimes we get shot down. Because things can happen. And even on a global way, just sort of through the plan… just looking at all the bad, all the negatives - there’s a lot of darkness there. But I had a sister that kept telling me to turn towards the light, and if we did that as a whole, with all of us in humanity, keep turning toward the light, that light would become so bright and engulf us and then we could all be the light to this world."

(Story chronicled in 2017)

Jacob

Jacob

"I’m originally from Lake of the Ozarks, in Missouri I moved in order to go to college and also to be reunited with my Mom - I’m adopted. So I moved up here without talking to her - I hadn’t talked to her for like 7, 10 years I think. So I wanted to see her, see how she was doing. Next thing I knew, I’m moving out of my foster parents’ area and moving up here to live with her. We try to take care of each other.

What led to my homelessness? I would say mistakes. I would say I haven't had the best choices but I wouldn’t say… my average is no more wrong choices than anybody else, but it happened at a rapid pace and at a wrong time in my life. So I, you know, ended up where I did unfortunately. But that’s just how it can go, I guess.

If I had it to do over, I probably would have gone through the red tape a lot more. Whenever it comes to FAFSA and stuff like that, ‘cause there’s college funding for people who don’t have the money to do it. But it required a lot of - I came from a foster home of 15 people, so whenever I went to fill it out it needed all kinds of social security numbers, and even though I wasn’t living with my foster parents, I wasn’t considered an independent. I think you’re not considered independent until you’re 21 or something. So unfortunately, between the ages of 18 to 21 - I was there when I was 20, almost there to where things would have been okay, but I messed up and ended up getting a DWI at .036 and there’s a zero tolerance policy because I was a minor at the time. I decided to have one or two beers and drive home and one thing led to another wrong choice, but… just one thing led to another and there are fines, and if you don’t pay your fines you go to jail, then, you know, in and out and in and out from there.

I would say the hardest part about being homeless is using a phone. Something simple like that. It’s just like, it’s not really that big of a deal, but it feels like a huge deal when you have to walk to the other side of town to do laundry at somebody’s house even though they said you can come over and do whatever you need - take a shower, eat, things like that, a place to store my stuff so it I can trust it won’t get stolen. You know, whatever it might be - but then it’s a task. Because I don’t have a car, and then you get there and nobody’s home. And then I have to walk. Just little things in life. I mean, people got things they got to do that doesn't revolve around me. And then people assume when I ask to use their phone that I’m doing a drug deal or that I’m going to steal their phone and that’s not the case. And you know, there’s no pay phones anymore. It’s all expected to be, you know, convenient. And convenient can be all the luxury you can get, but sometimes you have to look at it from the wrong side of the deal.

My advice would be to treat everybody like family. Because that’s the only way you can have a full life. Because life is about relationship. With others and with yourself. So you can keep living."

(Story chronicled in 2017)

Shonna "Homelessness Doesn't Discriminate"

Shonna "Homelessness Doesn't Discriminate"

I think a lot of people don’t realize that most of us are only one paycheck from being  homeless. Homelessness doesn’t discriminate. When I became homeless, I was fleeing a domestic violence situation. That’s what made me homeless.

Read Shonna's story HERE.

Tony

Tony

"I’m originally from Davenport Iowa. Well, actually, Le Clair is my home town. The Quad Cities. After my mom passed away, my family decided they liked Missouri so we moved down to Taneyville - I was down around the Forsyth/Branson area and I just ended up coming up here. I like it better than down there, so I stayed up here. I stayed at the Victory Mission for awhile but I got out of there the weekend after Christmas. Right now I’m just sleeping on the streets. I’ve got a little cubby hole spot that I’ve got. It works out pretty good - I stay mostly dry.

The hardest thing about being homeless is just being able to survive and make it day to day. You know, there’s finances and finding a job. That’s a hard thing right there. Just finding a job. I’m 55 years old and people look at that like “He’s too old - we don’t want to hire him” - there’s a whole lot of discrimination out there for people that are older as far as jobs. I’ve worked mainly doing construction. I have my master’s license. I owned my own business in Iowa up there for 5 years and then I joined the electrical union. And then 2002 things went bad with the electrical union - I actually got a job down in Branson as a construction superintendent. Went around building Old Navy’s and dress shops and just retail shops at malls and things like that.

What led to my homelessness? Trying to help other people out. I actually had an apartment out in Kirbyville, and I had a job working nights and I was trying to help some people out that I thought needed help, because that’s what I was told - they ended up taking advantage of me and I got behind on my rent, got evicted from my apartment. Had some stuff in storage and it burnt - I lost everything I had in storage. It’s just difficult sometimes. I’ll get back on my feet. I might take me awhile.

Advice I would give to others is just be happy with your life and try and be honest with everybody and do good. If you can help people, help them. And if they can help you, take the help because you never know. Just the Veterans Coming Home Center- they help us by feeding us. That helps a lot and gets us out of the weather during the day. It’s kind of nice. One thing I’ve noticed is that it would be nice if there was a pavilion park that was open during the day, and restrooms. Where we could just hang out. If we weren’t doing any damage or violating any laws. Where we could just go.

I’m me. Trying to survive. I’ve got a kid and a couple of grandkids in Pennsylvania, and an ex-wife. Boy that I adopted - I haven’t talked to my son that I adopted since February of last year. My boy, I keep in contact with him by text. I never get him to call me on the phone. Won’t answer the phone. But at least he knows how to text. I just, I don’t know - I’m possibly thinking about going back to Iowa where I’m from and maybe just start over there. In some ways, here in town you’re in the same rut. Same thing day in, day out, day in, day out. Week after week. I think maybe when the weather clears I’ll head back up to Iowa. I haven't decided for positive yet. I keep kicking the idea around. It keeps kicking back at me"

(Story chronicled in 2016)

Shaun

Shaun

"I was raised in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. My grandparents and my dad raised me. My grandfather was a geophysical engineer, my dad was an electrical engineer. My grandmother was a cryptographer. She was a codebreaker during WWII. My grandparents met in the navy. My mom was a logistics clerk - they met in the army.

What brought me to Springfield was I was homeless in 2003, in Tulsa Oklahoma. There was nothing - no help for a homeless person in Tulsa. There really isn’t. So me and a friend of mine decided to hop a freight train that was going west. Thought we’d go to California and see how things were. We fell asleep and got hooked up with a train headed back east. So we didn’t know we were in Missouri for almost a whole 24 hours. Well, long story short, that’s what originally brought me into Missouri. The guy I was with? No one would help him. Like, he didn’t have any i.d., no social. This guy mentally wasn’t all there and he justified not having those documents as what would be analogous to conspiracy theory. He wasn’t entirely bright. He would have gotten himself killed if left to himself. I was able to get whatever help I needed because I had a social and i.d. He didn’t. I couldn’t leave him there. You know, we were in St. Louis. I couldn’t leave him there. I knew what would happen. So I say “alright, you’re coming with me”. We go from the Arch all the way to Greenwood, St. Louis County.

My homelessness? It wasn’t so much my past as a way of saying, it keeps coming back. It was more of the social ideology of the community. The department of justice says “okay, you’ve done your time, we’re kicking you out”. Society says “you may have done your time, but we’re still going to punish you”. I did a year in jail. It’s really been an uphill battle since then. I have 2 felonies, they’re back to back - they weren’t anything violent, but it doesn’t matter. It’s really difficult for me to find stable employment, much less a place to live. They do CDC background checks and credit check.

The most difficult part of being homeless was not having a place where I could pop up a tent. I would find someplace, I would hide. Not having a place where I could store my gear so I wouldn’t have to carry it all over town while I look for a job.

I would like to be a prison minister. I don’t think people would be surprised at the choice of what I want to do with my life. No, I think they would be more surprised at my past. They wouldn’t see it.

Something I have learned recently is that I feel less of a need to ask from blessings from God - because God is my blessing. He’s it. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Him, and I know that for a fact. I wouldn’t have anything or be able to do anything. And that’s where I’m at. "

(Story chronicled in 2017)

MELODY'S STORY "LOVE"

MELODY'S STORY "LOVE"

"Yeah, I am homeless, but I am a good person and I want people to know this."

READ MORE ABOUT MELODY HERE.

KEVIN AND PETRA'S STORY "JUDGMENT"

KEVIN AND PETRA'S STORY "JUDGMENT"

"People look at us differently; it's like they think all the homeless people are bad."

WATCH KEVIN AND PETRA'S SHORT FILM HERE.

David's Story "Hope Dealer"

David's Story "Hope Dealer"

"Over the next 15 years I would be homeless, in and out of jails, rehabs and the hospital multiple times. I would die more times than I can count on one hand and would lose more friends to addiction than I can count on my fingers and toes."

Read David's story of hope and perseverance HERE.

Monisha's Story "Life Will Surprise You"

Monisha's Story "Life Will Surprise You"

So through this journey I have found myself being homeless multiple times. Actually being disabled the way that I am makes it hard to have steady income and so sometimes situations are unattainable so there’s always that risk, and sometimes that risk becomes a reality so I’ve been homeless about three times in my life.

Even being homeless, I kept pushing forward with trying to make my life better, I was accepted into the PHd program at Saybrook University and I went for it.  However even in my first semester I found myself still living homeless.  

Read Monisha's story on being homeless HERE.

Michael's Story "That Light"

Michael's Story "That Light"

My biggest fear is not having a place to stay. I’m too old to be homeless.

Read Michael's full story HERE.

Katie's Story "Moments of Greatness"

Katie's Story "Moments of Greatness"

I can’t tell you being homeless was a terrible experience. It wasn’t. I would never say it was great, but there were moments of greatness in it. You see, that’s the wonderful thing about children. We are resilient. No, I didn’t want to sleep in a tent. And no, I didn’t want to pick berries. But those aren’t the things that define much of that time. I was fed, I was clothed, and I was most certainly loved. You can see that love in my kindergarten picture.

Read "Moments of Greatness" HERE.