Thursday, March 1, 2012

I am Homeless: David L.

David L. is only 26 years old, but like most chronically homeless, he appears at least ten years older. I asked him to come in and speak with me after seeing him hanging out at The Salvation Army Shelter after the daily Love Lunch noontime meal.

His story is sad. His mother died when he was at the impressionable age of eleven. His father also passed away the same year. He is from Baltimore, and ended up living in Lumberton with his elderly grandparents. He quickly admits that his grandparents were "too old to handle him" when he went to live with them and he started hanging with the wrong crowd.

He claims to have been homeless from his early teen years, never finishing school and choosing to live on the streets after becoming addicted to drugs. As he sits in my office, he has scratches up and down his forearms and a hospital bracelet. When asked about this, he sheepishly smiles and says he's been really depressed and started cutting himself with his knife. He just got out of the county's mental health hospital four days before.

David has with him a bag full of oranges and some bread he has picked up from the tables of donations inside the shelter's kitchen. He's munching on a large bag of chips, even though he has just finished lunch. I ask where he has been staying at night and he says he's found an abandoned transfer truck where he's been sleeping and keeping his things. I asked why not stay here (at The Salvation Army), to which he replies "I have been in here and left to take care of court and felony issues that came up."

David talks about walking the street and watching others "score" drugs in the surrounding neighborhood. It's not clear if he has the desire or mental capacity to help himself at this point, which is a shame considering he is only 26 years old. For now, he is one of the 1,600 homeless in our community struggling to survive each day.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I am Homeless: Brandy's Story

26 year old Brandy found herself homeless at the end of 2011. After serving in the military and overcoming many obstacles after her discharge, she found employment with a military contractor in Fort McPherson. Once that base closed, her job moved to Fayetteville, NC where, after moving, it turned out the contract was filled and she was no longer needed. She had moved with a friend, and things didn't work out once she had no job and couldn't seem to find another one.

In October, Brandy found herself homeless, in a new city with no friends and no where to turn. For two days, she slept in her car, cleaning up in public bathrooms and buying water and small amounts of food. She heard about The Salvation Army and thankfully there was a bed available for her that same day.

Brandy checked into the shelter and found herself in a room with twelve beds filled with women of all different backgrounds who all had one thing in common...they were homeless. She was given sheets, a blanket, towel and washcloth as well as tolietries. "I was scared. I didn't know what to expect, coming into a homeless shelter," remembers Brandy. "Most of the people here are not what you expect to find at a shelter. Many have just had a run of bad luck, and they are trying to get back on their feet."

Brandy has been searching for jobs since day 1 in the shelter, even working for The Salvation Army ringing bells at Christmas. She has experience working for the Census Bureau, fast food establishments, daycare centers and clerical positions. Currently, she is taking classes at Fayetteville Technical Community College in accounting, hoping this will lead to a good, steady position in the near future. Until then, she continues to seek employment as her time at The Salvation Army is dwindling.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


In today's economy, more and more people are finding themselves homeless than ever before. The recent national Point in Time Survey revealed that 1,600 people are homeless in Cumberland County, NC.

The Salvation Army operates the largest homeless shelter in the county, with 75 beds for men, women and children. An overflow shelter has even been used to house up to 30 individuals when the weather drops to freezing.

There are no "typical" homeless people anymore, the stereotype of the dirty, ragged person holding a sign begging by the side of the highway is gone. Many homeless are college graduates, struggling families who have lost their homes, single mothers with no family to help them.

Stay tuned for stories of the homeless on our blog. We're putting a face on homeless and on a growing problem in our community.