This morning, I got up early (5AM).
Why? Because I feel like God is leading me to do the second most daring thing I have ever attempted to do in my life to raise awareness about homelessness.
In fact, it is so daring that it is requiring me to prepare myself over the course of 7-8 weeks. Soon, I will release this challange, invite all of you to support, and ask that you each spread the word about this challenge.
Therefore, I ask that you join me now in praying for this task ahead of our organization.
So far, we have raised 4K socks over the course of six days. Generous donors from all over have banded together to bring support, resources, and encouragement for us to accomplish #project5K.
We have had people ship socks from all over (including four different states, and from one international country). Today is the last day to gather the last 1K socks, and am confident that #lovebeyondwalls will raise them.
Today, I’ll be at one of the drop off locations (Tees & Quotes) on Peters Street from 12noon-5pm.
Over the last week, I have received calls from all over: L.A., New York, Kentucky, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Virginia, and a few other states. Many people from these states are talking about possible collaborative efforts, and wanted to know how #lovebeyondwalls could come to those states to help raise awareness.
Although we are pacing ourselves here in the city of Atlanta, I learned something very important about homelessness (in my 72 Hours), what it will take to combat it, how we can help those who are living on the streets without any resources or means, and what it will take to raise awareness across this country about this epidemic.
It takes collaboration! It takes an army of people banded together taking #lovebeyondwalls to make a difference in this sensitive area. Why? Because homelessness is a vast issue. There are many causes for homelessness in the United States: Addiction, Poverty, Job-loss, Foreclosures, Mental health, Lack of affordable housing, Domestic Violence, and a host of other social issues.
In fact, a stat shows that out of the 300+ million people that live in the United States 3.5 million of those people are expected to be homeless each year (stat taken from homeaid.org). This isn’t something a few organizations, or a couple people passing out sandwiches can handle alone. This epidemic will take people from all sorts of industries, churches, faith communities, backgrounds, and neighborhoods to come up with solutions to this problem (and work together not individually). Will it be easy? No. But, it will have to start in the trenches (grassroots), and expand nationally.
It’s just as my IG friend Arkeedah McCormick says, “Collaboration is truly amazing! You get to meet, listen, and engage with many individuals and hear their stories.”
Collaboration will do three things:
1) Create strength. Unity is a powerful tool, and has the ability to provide strength to any movement or cause.
2) Create resources. No one person or organization has all the resources, but through collaboration and unity strength and resources appear.
3) Create a voice. When people band together to take #lovebeyondwalls, the voiceless are heard, and their issues are discussed.
In 2014, #lovebeyondwalls will partner with people from all over to make a difference, and raise more awareness about homelessness in the city of Atlanta, and in the United States. If you are reading this, and would like to partner contact us [HERE].
A few days ago, #lovebeyondwalls mobilized 300+ people to resource people with food, clothes, and other items to survive on the streets in downtown Atlanta. It took collaboration!
Check out the video showing the collaborative efforts below:[embedplusvideo height=”500″ width=”500″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1eQfosW” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/DDg25Lwqpyc?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=DDg25Lwqpyc&width=500&height=500&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=” id=”ep7228″ /]
This morning, I’m reflecting on what made me take the step toward going homeless to raise awareness… Believe it or not, it was a list of five questions I asked myself concerning my purpose and direction. I asked myself these questions to gain clarity, and narrow in on what I feel God was calling me to (my area of service)!
Are you searching for clarity when it comes to direction in life? Below are five simple questions you can ask yourself that will push you to think deeply and reflect about where you are headed and what you should get involved in.
- Where am I? (This will cause you to reflect on the realities of where you are)
- Where am I going? (This will cause you to reflect on your desired destination)
- Do I have a map? (This will cause you to reflect on what steps are needed to get to where you are going)
- Whose going with me? (This will cause you think about what people are needed to mentor, guide, and support you on the journey)
- When do I start? (This will cause you to set a start date & time on when you will take the first step(s) toward where you’d rather be)
If you are to continue gaining clarity about your life’s direction, you’ll have to wrestle with these questions at various places and seasons in your life. Why? Because questioning causes you to gain more clarity, and God uses clarity to direct paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
By thinking deeply about these questions, not only was #lovebeyondwalls born, but my focus areas and passions where made clear.
I’m not raising awareness for myself, I have chosen to raise awareness to help others. When I die, I want to leave this earth knowing I did not consume, but gave!
This morning, I am inspired to try to raise support for my friends in downtown Atlanta who are homeless. Why? It’s simple. When I gave up my life to live with them for three days, I purposely did not take anything. I wanted to wear their shoes first-hand and experience all that they experienced (AND I DID). While out there, my shoes and socks got wet because it rained one night.
It was horrible because it is winter time, and it made my feet feel like little popsicles (because of the strong winds). Could you imagine being in 30 degree weather without socks (or with wet socks)?
My homeless friend Tony saw my problem, went into his tent, and gave me his last pair of new socks someone donated to him. “How are you going to get some more socks?” I asked. He smiled and said, “I don’t know, I’ll figure something out.”
Did I mention that this same guy has HIV, and has not had medication in two months because his former state has not transferred his records (story for a later blog)? I shed tears with this brother, am inspired by this brother, and want to do all I can to get him and others socks and medication.
Not only was I humbled, but I was blown away at his genoristy, selflessness, and humility. It took courage to give out of nothingness, and even more courage to be strong for me when he said, “I am dying…”
It reminds me of a parable by Jesus told in the scriptures (Luke 10) about the Good Samaritan who helped the man who fell on hard times (only I was the man who had fallen, and my homeless friend was the Samaritan).
Isn’t it amazing that we all have the potential to be Jesus to each other? Isn’t it amazing that we all have the power to be equals in Christ? My friend became Jesus to me as the Samaritan did the guy who had fallen.
With this being said, I need your help raising 5K pairs of socks. #lovebeyondwalls wants to provide socks for all of the men and women who may be on the streets right now with no socks in the winter time.
Here’s three simple ways you can help (we are calling this #project5K):
1) Call me (Terence) directly to meet you… My number is 404-955-8033
2) Give on this site, or
3) Drop socks off at either one of the locations found on the flyer below:
I’m having a bit of a struggle processing all that I experienced while living on the streets for three days…
Mean mugs, getting put out of places, being talked down to, being viewed as an animal, being rejected repeatedly, people looking at you like you are strange, hearing awful statements thrown at you like rocks from people walking down the street, and workers in shelters treating you poorly (people who are supposed to care)…
“Get out of my way, and get a job…” Some random guy told me.
“Hell no, I’m not going to give your lazy ass nothing…” A woman screamed.
“All of you all smell…” This young corporate executive yelled.
“Let’s cross the street…” A lady said as we were approaching their group.
All these words and more felt like NO’S!!!!
Could you imagine not only being down, but being stepped on constantly and reminded that you are less than (an outcast even…)? Well, I believe that’s how the homeless feel. Not all of them have drug problems, steal, or are mentally ill. Most of them are decent people (and have big hearts).
How are you supposed to climb out of a ditch of homelessness when everything (including the system) reminds you that you can’t and that you don’t belong?
The second night, I was put out of a homeless shelter lobby when trying to charge my phone. I asked the worker, “Can I please charge my phone, it’s cold outside (40 degrees)..I need to have it on for safety…”
The man ripped my phone out of the wall, and told me “Get out now…I don’t want to tell your ass again…If you have a problem with it…take it up with the white man (excuse the language I’m not racist). Don’t look at me, I’m just doing my job.”
However, I persisted, “Sir, could I please charge my phone…It’s cold and I have no where else to go.”
He looked at me, and said the most hurtful statement I believe any homeless person could hear. He said, “Don’t get mad at me because of the life you are living…”
What if I was just down on my luck and was homeless temporarily?
What if I lost my home in a fire?
What if I wasn’t a drug addict or had a mental health illness?
What if I were really trying to get off the streets?
All the rejecting moments above screamed NO!!!!!
That one worker and many others I encountered treated me and my friends like trash, and it hurt. Why? Because I have friends that are homeless, and there is no hope in rejection, being viewed as the scum of the earth, or being treated like an animal.
Today, I blog to release the hurt, and share that I am going to do all I can to raise awareness through #lovebeyondwalls and do my best to find my friends some help to get them off the streets.
Below is a video taken from one of my homeless friends sharing about homeless people,[embedplusvideo height=”500″ width=”500″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1efeMbQ” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/krx96mYTwiU?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=krx96mYTwiU&width=500&height=500&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=” id=”ep9579″ /]
I ask that you give [HERE] to help this organization raise more awareness about these awful injustices.
(It’s about 3AM)
I haven’t been off of the streets a full 24 hours yet, but for some reason I miss them (yes, the streets). Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Only thing is…I’m not making it up.
In fact, If I can be completely transparent–being among many of my homeless friends who started to consider me as family caused me to do something I have not been able to do in years–TRUST (If you have been through hell relationally, you can relate).
I found it extremely easy to let my guard down without being reserved, having fear, being introverted, or even defensive.
The first day I arrived, I did not have anything: No blankets. No toothpaste. No jacket. No brush. Not change of clothes. No money. No direction. Nothing. The only thing I did have was my cell for protection (and storytelling). You can read my posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
However, my homeless friends provided me with everything! When I walked up on the hill at tent-city (under I-20 75/85), I was approached by three brothers and a sister.
“I’m here to stay with you all, and I don’t have anything. I want to experience what you experience and share with the world on your behalf. I want to give you a voice…“ I said.
Immediately, I was greeted, given instructions, and each of my homeless friends rallied together supplies so I would make it through the nights of 30 & 40 degree weather. They gave me a blankets, socks, food, and sat and talked with me for hours about how they ended up under the bridge.
We shed tears, laughed, sang, and talked about God all day and most of the night. They showed me the ropes (how to live, where to go, and what to do) Immediately, my walls came down. I began to trust! Why? Here’s three quick reasons
1) They accepted me as their family. Not only did my homeless friends help me to survive, they called me “family,” and displayed it with their actions. I have had relationships in “regular” society for years, and have not heard those words or experienced that type of genuine love in years.
2) They opened up their community to me. I have been in affluent spaces, in diverse spaces, in uppity spaces, but the community I felt among them was like none other. It was a closeness that can’t be described with words. They shared everything they had with me (and they had nothing). Without them, I wouldn’t have completed my journey…
3) They opened up to me. They shared their most personal stories with me, talked about their faith in God, and listened to many stories of mine. It was the best experience. Sometimes, not only is it hard to get people to open up in normal society, but it is even more difficult to get people to listen to you. They did both…
Also, they shared, “no minister, or person has ever dared to wear our shoes and live with us… We have people come and leave all the time, but not stay and experience….Because you are doing this…you have our respect.” they all said.
I don’t know why it was so easy to believe them and trust them, but it was… And, not only did they keep their word–they protected/encouraged me until I made it through.
The first day it rained, was cold, and I survived with resources given to me by my homeless friends. I kept thinking to myself,
“This is the part of society that is looked at strange, but has the most heart. I have met people with “means” in normal society with much status, but would not sacrifice the way they did (and they have nothing).”
Not only were my stereotypes destroyed, but I was educated, had on their shoes, and my heart broke with even more compassion for our brothers and sisters without homes in Atlanta (and the nation).
I wish I could go back and rescue many of the people who I established relationships with…
I wish I could give some of them jobs…
I wish I could take them off of the streets and give many of them second chances…
I wish I had an army of people who would unite with #lovebeyondwalls to make this happen…
From the first day forward (for the rest of my life), I made a declaration and promise to God to raise tons and tons and tons and tons of awareness to help my “new” family and other homeless people in this country. That’s why I am going to go hard to build this organization. There are many social ills plaguing our society, and #lovebeyondwalls is needed in those places.
The first day, not only did I encourage them, but they changed me. They cause me to learn how to trust again!!!!
Below are a few pictures of items that were given to me the first night I slept under the bridge:
Today is the day my journey starts… View the video below and see what three things you can do to help me raise awareness!
I ask that you join our movement, and spread the story.
Terence[embedplusvideo height=”500″ width=”500″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1cnhoqP” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/oLZUr1MJm-k?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=oLZUr1MJm-k&width=500&height=500&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=” id=”ep8568″ /]