After interviewing dozens of homeless people from coast to coast, I’m often asked how I get people to share their story on camera. The answer? Socks.

No matter what city I traveled to, people were beyond thrilled when I opened my bag and gave them a fresh pair of socks. It was not only a great icebreaker, but an often overlooked need of those I met on the streets. All of the socks for this tour were provided by Hanes.

Paul was no different. I met him in Tompkins Square Park in New York City’s East Village. Although he washes his feet as much as possible, Paul said he wears the same pair of socks everyday. He said he must literally scrape them off his feet to remove them everyday.

As I was talking to Paul, he was on the lookout for police so his friends could sleep. When the camera pans to show his friends on the ground I hope your heart breaks as much as mine. Paul says he thinks the police make it up as they go along. He says you can get arrested for “obstructing” a park bench, even if you are the only person on the bench.

As Paul was describing how life really is on the streets of New York City, I really related to what he was saying. It’s easy to almost forget who you are and wonder how you’ll ever get back to what you once were. I thought Paul’s first wish was illuminating: he wished he could start his life over again.

There are currently 2,175 homeless shelters listed in the Homeless Shelter Directory. Please: find one near you and help them help get people like Paul off the street.

A very special thanks to Hanes for their generous support.

People were beyond thrilled when I opened my bag and gave them a fresh pair of socks. Click To Tweet

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  • Wow. The part where he talks about his three wishes hits hard. Thank you very much for this blog. It’s very eye-opening and motivating.

  • I agree with Becky's comment! Thanks for sharing these stories.

  • I agree with Becky's comment! Thanks for sharing these stories.

  • What a sad situation.

  • Guest

     I wish I could start my life over again too.

  • cyinger

    What a nice man.  I like him very much & empathize.  If I had a wish, I’d change the way police everywhere are taught to treat homeless people.  If only they could see them as the individuals they are, and not criminals for sittting & sleeping all other unavoidable human functions.  Come on!  What does giving them fines & arresting them accomplish.  Waste of time & resources and harassment

  • rgteryey


  • rgteryey


  • rgteryey


  • Socks are always welcome but my 6 years now, its shorts(underwear) that I find the hardest to get.

  • PoetForPeace

    I really think we should all do more direct action with folks that find themselves without a home. I am currently trying to directly work with a young man in the area where I work. I give him referral slips with numbers and addresses for help and I’ve given him bags with socks and basic needs like soap, toothpaste/brushes, combs, protein bars and fruit. I asked his shoe size and he told me 16. His feet do not look that big to me. Will keep working at this.

  • PoetForPeace

    Yes, I agree. Very often police, security and others just assume that all homeless people are “crazy”, unworthy, lazy or some other negative. It’s a crime the way this system treats citizens, in my opinion.

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