JANUARY 2018: The dark night made the neon lights appear brighter as the prostitutes, the alcoholics and tourists slowly mixed with one another like a Sunday crowd mixing in church never staring too long.Read More
Cuba has around 37,800 miles of roads. Of that number, close to 20,000 miles are unpaved. That said, some downtown streets may have been paved 40 years ago and not touched since. So, what maybe a paved route, could easily feel and look unpaved.Read More
Dave Walker lives in his van in Murfreesboro, TN near Nashville. In this 10 minute he talks about some of the things he has seen or heard in the past 8 months.Read More
She said that she moved to Tennessee to oversee the care of her brother who was hit by a car in Nashville, TN. She stayed with him at his apartment up until he was kicked out after a loss of income.
Today, he is in a wheelchair and she remains by her brothers’ side to care for him – both homeless.
“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching -- they are your family. ” ― Jim Butcher, American author
Bone Chilling Cold: “You have to know how to survive in this weather,” he told me. I asked, “What do you need besides a sleeping bag?” He looked down and then responded, “I recently got out of prison and they took my ID, Social Security Card – things get lost in there – but I need those things.”
The temperature outside was 16 degrees with a wind chill of 3 degrees that afternoon. By nightfall, the temperature had fallen to 12 degrees and expected to hit 7 degrees by morning with a morning wind chill of -1 degree by 6AM in Nashville, TN.
The lowest temperature in recorded history for Nashville occurred on January 21, 1985. It was -17 degrees. Looking back to January 12, 1918, the daily high was at 2 degrees.
“Nothing burns like the cold. But only for a while. Then it gets inside you and starts to fill you up, and after a while you don't have the strength to fight it.” ― George R.R. Martin
He sat quietly holding a sign and if anyone handed him anything, he would politely thank them. As we talked it was obvious that he was well spoken as he told me about two young ladies who stopped and gave him blankets to use for a warm night’s sleep.
“I want to get to Florida,” he told me with a stutter. “I got off the bus in Murfreesboro, but I need to get to Interstate 75,” he explained.
He then described how he has worked all of his life at day labor companies suggesting, “Because I like to travel.” A social security check is deposited into his account each month, but he does not have an ATM card or checks. “I will set all of that up when I get to Florida,” talking about how he wants to find somewhere to live where he will be warmer.
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” - Matsuo Basho, Japanese Poet (1644-1694)
“Do not avert your eyes.
It is important
that you see this.
It is important that you feel
this.” ― Kamand Kojouri, writer
A photo of faith, humanity and mankind... living on the streets.
“For it is in giving that we receive.” — Saint Francis of Assisi
When you are homeless, it is easy to get knocked down. Most recently, he said that his hours were cut at the bar where he works in Nashville.
"Tough times never last, but tough people do." - Robert H. Schuller
He has been on the streets for about 8 years. He said that his mother told him when he turned 18 he is out of here and on his own, which he has been.
Outgoing, kind and spirited are the words I would use to describe his personality. He was excited to be alive, despite his circumstances.
Jobs come and go and don’t mean much to many people on the street. It is a way to make enough money to get to the next chapter, not something that defines us. However, his most recent job earned him enough money to buy warm weather gear from Bass Pro Shops, which he is wearing in this photo. That is a good thing because recently, he has been without a sleeping bag or tent.
His home was a metal bench in downtown Nashville. He had a backpack of clothing and personal possessions. But, that changed on Thanksgiving Day.
Now, he has a tent and a sleeping bag that will greet the temperatures this winter without an issue. It also means he will be able to visit the downtown library during the day because he can leave his backpack in his tent. What some may not realize, the downtown library now limits what size of bag you can bring in and his backpack broke that rule as he had a hiking backpack.
“There are two great days in a person's life - the day we are born and the day we discover why.” - William Barclay, Scottish Author, (1907-1978)
I told her that I may have one tent left, even though two people were in need of a tent and she was one of them.
When we got to my car... I found that I had two tents left and three blankets - just enough to fill the need. You should have seen her smile when she got to walk back to the others eating a Thanksgiving meal and give that second tent to the other person who needed it along with the blankets.
"There is a lot that happens around the world we cannot control. We cannot stop earthquakes, we cannot prevent droughts, and we cannot prevent all conflict, but when we know where the hungry, the homeless and the sick exist, then we can help." - Jan Schakowsky, U.S. Representative for Illinois
He said to me on Thanksgiving Day... "I'm not homeless, I'm just home, less."
His view is the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville.
"This is just a stop, on the way to where I'm going
I'm not afraid because I know this is my
-Temporary Home by Carrie Underwood
From Louisville, Kentucky she headed to Nashville, Tennessee with her new boyfriend. She is 37 years old and her significant other told me, “She was tired of her daddy taking all but $100 of her disability check.”
"You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” — Bob Marley (via BerkLee’s mom, the parent of a down syndrome child – quote posted on “Mighty Proud Media”)
Thanksgiving Day in Nashville: After serving in the National Guard he was discharged honorably. He then decided to hit the road and so the journey from California to Nashville, Tennessee was met head on.
He is 23 and homeless. He was adopted at a young age after being removed from his birth mother… it was a story that he was not ready to share.
While making multiple trips to my car to retrieve more sleeping bags and tents for homeless at “Gobble Gobble Give,” he said, “Today, I don’t feel homeless and it feels really good helping.”
The young man helped me until all the tents and sleeping bags were humbly accepted by those living on the street. Some told us, "I don't need one, but he does [pointing at another homeless person at the event]."
After helping, he got a sleeping bag and tent for himself. However, he first made sure that those who needed one had one.
The 23 year old again stated, "Today was a good day - best morning ever, I did not feel homeless."
At Gobble Gobble Give 2017, David Montanbeau told me, “3,348 Meals were served, 1000+ Articles of Clothing given away, 3000+ Hygiene Kits were given away, 74 Haircuts, 28 Showers and 5 Complete Makeovers.” Not to mention, 31 left with a new sleeping bag, 8 left with a new tent and 3 left with new blankets.
If you have to wear a mask to do what you consider good, you’re probably not doing good. The group is known for vandalism and violence in America. Their name: Antifa (anti-fascist).
“The theory of Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” ― Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
“I’ve been coming here since I was a baby,” he told me while standing inside the back entrance to the Keenland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky. The track is a Thoroughbred horse racing facility that was first opened in 1936.
With a history that spans over 80 years, lots of residents in Kentucky have memories growing up around the track. “My daddy worked here for years with the horses,” he explained.
*(Sorry for the language, not mine, but his statement) I asked him, “Have you ever dreamed of racing them or raising a race horse?” He seemed irritated at my whimsical question as if only the chosen could raise such a thoroughbred, “Oh hell no – Shit no, Shit no! Those things - - That would cost over a million dollars… Seriously? WTF…” He then walked off and I could only grin at the thought of how much pride, excitement and honor has been placed on these race horses and track over the years.
“The racehorse, by virtue of his awesome physical gifts, freed the jockey from himself. When a horse and a jockey flew over the track together, there were moments in which the man's mind wedded itself to the animal's body to form something greater than the sum of both parts.” ― Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit: An American Legend
Her hands, which have always been used to serve others, were busily making spaghetti. However, those same hands have been used in an attempt to block punches from her former husband. Those hands were used to open a prescription pill bottle in an attempt to end the suffering during an eight hour ordeal that started on a drive home.
After she downed the prescription pills in an effort to numb or end the physical pain, her husband yelled that if she died while he was hitting her, no one would find her body.
Looking back to December of 2016, the same man traded his wife for crack cocaine. He then got angry at her for his actions, which was when a beating that lasted for eight hours occurred.
During those eight hours she was punched in the face and chunks of her hair were pulled out. The incident started on the roadway leaving the man’s home where her husband pawned her off. She was beat on the side of the road until a truck driver stopped to offer the couple a ride as they were out of gas. The truck driver failed to realize that the husband was doing the beating.
She wrote, “A truck driver picked us up to get gas and he told the truck driver he picked me up because I got beat up, our 4 year old witnessed most of what happened. At one point he cried and his dad told him he better shut up or he will do the same to him. We finally got home and he knocked me around the bathroom. I was lying on the floor and he kicked me in my face. I tried killing myself by downing some pills. The last thing I remember before passing out was him choking me.”
She closed with, “Now I know that if you get hit once, get out.”
I think in life we often forget how fragile the world around us really is… How one negative word can change the trajectory of a life in a single breath. How one bad act against another can turn someone already suffering to the edge of their existence. I think we forget that everyone around us has some deep down dream they have yet to live, but want so badly to do so.
This man is 25 years old and lives on the streets of Birmingham, Alabama and he told me, “I have only been to Kentucky, Ohio and once Tennessee, but I didn’t get to see Tennessee we only passed through.”
I asked, “If you could do anything, what would you do?” He paused and thought for a second and then responded, “Really? Anything? If there was a job or a chance – I’d love to travel, I want to see the world - - I want to travel!”
He has never seen the ocean, but hopes to someday soon.
“You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, that reveals you with yourself.” - Ella Maillart, photographer and writer (1903-1997)
She was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, but lacked the funds or the stable environment to seek treatment. She told me that she was given a grave diagnosis with about 12 months of life in front of her.
While still homeless, four years later she is alive and able to walk wherever her feet will take her.
"You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have” – Cayla Mills, a cancer survivor who sought treatment
Todd Willard writes music and lives on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee. He told me the song he is working on now is titled, “My Old Friend.”
Todd’s home is a park bench on Music Row, across the street from a recording studio where he recorded his song, thanks to the help of a friend in the business.
“They hit me over the head and I don’t remember much else,” he told me when describing a recent attack that he was the victim of.
He pulled his hair back after removing his cap, “See right here, that is where they busted my head open – I was lucky to live through it,” he told me while describing what occurred.
They never caught the person or persons who jumped Todd, but he survived and I bet a new song is in there somewhere.
“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” ― Arthur O'Shaughnessy, Poems of Arthur O'Shaughnessy