Tour of Ithaca’s Tent City Where Homeless People Survive in the Freezing Cold

I shot and edited this vlog down and dirty to get it up quick. People are dying outside! WE MUST ALL DO SOMETHING!

Chris Biehn who is an Ithaca College Student and started an organization to help the homeless people in Ithaca invited me down for a visit. We met up with Carmen Guidi, a local businessman who started building tiny homes to help our homeless neighbors.

In 2013, Carmen gave me a tour of Ithaca’s tent city known as the Jungle and I wore Google Glass to share more of an immersive experience. While walking with Carmen talking about the tents that are catching fire I remembered the person Carmen introduced me to in this video died the following day after his tent bust into flames! THE NEED IS URGENT!

Many of the people that live in this tent city are employed. They just cannot afford rent. Chris explains that Ithaca is the 8th most expensive city in the U.S. and had only a 1% vacancy rate. The cost of housing has skyrocketed to the point living in a tent in the woods is now affordable housing.

Ithaca is a rural community in Upstate New York. Although the cost of housing is high the funding for social services you’d see in a larger city is not available. There literally is no place for all of the homeless people to go to get the help they need.

Sadly, this is not just an Ithaca problem but a crisis happening all over America. Unless we do something about the increasing lack of affordable housing in this country homelessness will continue to grow!

A Homeless Woman Shows Us Why It Feels Good to Give.

I have been trying to vlog more and I did my very best to capture the experience of meeting Manda for the first time, touring Seattle’s sanctioned homeless tent encampments, and handing out Hanes socks with Manda to homeless people downtown Seattle. Because capturing vlog content is often challenging some of the footage is not the greatest but I selected clips on emotion over quality. I feel it’s important to bring you through the experience as authentically as possible. This video is far from perfect but it is real!

A few months back Manda posted a selfie on one of my Facebook pages of her drinking coffee from her homeless camp. We became friends online yet I never imagined that I one day I would be at Manda’s camp drinking coffee with her.

This video starts off with the moment I met Manda in real life for the first time. Manda then takes us on a short tour of her homeless camp. I have huge respect for Manda. It takes a lot of courage to open up your life for the world to see when you live under a bridge homeless.

We then meet up with a friend that works for the City of Seattle who takes us on a tour of Tent City 5 Interbay that is run by homeless people Licton Springs Village, a low barrier tent community that is a harm reduction model.

The next day folks from Hanes flew out to Seattle to meet Manda and to give socks away to several of Seattle’s homeless camps, the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), and homeless people unsheltered downtown.

If you want to connect to homeless people you need to listen to homeless people. Manda took control. She was a force of nature handing out socks and hard to keep up with. The passion Manda had to help other people was contagious.

This video is an inside look into Seattle’s homeless population and how homeless people survive. Throughout this video, Manda shows us why it feels good to give to others. Let’s follow her lead and do all we can to help the hurting people in our communities. Manda is living proof we can all make a real positive difference in our world!

How to Give Socks to Homeless People.

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the first guy to give socks to homeless people. But I can almost guarantee no one has handed out socks to as many homeless people in as many cities and countries as I have. In the last ten years, I have traveled to over 300 cities and eight different countries handing out socks and making new homeless friends. I thought it would be a good idea to put together a “How-to” guide on handing out socks to people experiencing homelessness.

But, before I begin with the “how”, let’s first discuss the “why”.

There are reasons handing out socks is so important. First, socks are a real need to homeless people. Imagine you have to store all your clothes and belongings in a backpack carried with you all day. Maybe you’ve got two pairs of jeans, a couple of shirts, a couple of pairs of underwear, and some socks. And, socks get dirty. They get dirty fast.

What happens is homeless people wash their feet, but often they have to put dirty socks back on. While surprisingly simple, new socks are gold to homeless people because they feel good and help defend from several health problems. As one woman put it, brand new socks are “snuggly and comfy.”

Homeless people are getting sandwiches all day long, but very rarely do they receive socks. By handing out socks, you’re helping with a genuine need and creating a nonverbal connection that says, “You know something about homelessness. You care.”

Another reason to give out socks is it feels good helping somebody else. Sometimes when I’m feeling down or a little depressed, I will fill my backpack with a couple of bags of socks and go hand them out to homeless people and make some new friends. My problems don’t go away, but I gain a new perspective that helps me deal with life. I guarantee when you’re giving other people the gift of brand new fresh socks, you’re going to get all kinds of amazing responses back — from smiles to jumps for joy. I even had a homeless youth once yell, “White gold.” It will recharge you.

I often get asked by people, “There’s a homeless person in my neighborhood. I see him. I walk by him. I want to know his story.” Break the ice by giving some socks and then listen.

There’s a lot of different ways that you can hand out socks. You can, like me, carry socks in your backpack. Maybe carry a couple of pairs in your purse or in your briefcase. You can keep a couple of pairs in your glove box for when you’re at that exit ramp, and there’s a homeless person, and maybe the light turns red and it’s a little awkward. Take that awkward moment and turn it into something beautiful by handing the homeless person some socks.

Now let’s look at the “How” to give socks.

The number one question I get is, “What kind of socks do I give away?”

The only style of sock you should buy is men’s white crew socks. Don’t buy the “no-shows.” Don’t buy tube socks. Don’t buy ankle socks. And don’t buy black socks. People prefer white socks over black socks. Occasionally I will take black socks and white socks with me and give people a choice; 99 out of 100 times a homeless person will choose, “White socks.”

I also recommend Hanes socks. Hanes is a wonderful, comfortable sock at a fantastic price. There’s a lot of buy one give one brands out there. But for the cost of one sock from one of the buy one give one brands, you can buy 12 pairs of Hanes socks. That means you can give out six pairs of socks and keep six pairs if you wanted. Or you can give out all 12 pairs of socks for the price of 1 pair of the BOGO socks.

In full disclosure, Hanes occasionally hires me as a consultant and Hanes donates socks to Invisible People, but I am not being compensated for this post in any way. I am doing this because Hanes is the best sock for you to buy to give to homeless people.

I want homeless people to have socks. I want them to have quality socks, so that’s why I recommend Hanes.

My next tip is safety first — If you don’t feel safe, don’t engage with someone. Now, this is not just homelessness. We live in a really scary world. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t go down that street. If you don’t feel comfortable when somebody tries to panhandle, don’t engage and give them socks. You have to feel safe and comfortable wherever you are. Your safety comes first.

I try to give every homeless person two pairs of socks. Sometimes that’s not possible. If I walk into a group that’s rather large, then maybe I’ll go down to one pair of socks. If the group is way too big, I may not even give socks at all, because when I went to school the teacher said, “If you don’t have enough gum to give to everybody in the class, don’t bring it out.” I go by that rule.

Last, but far from least is have fun. Some of the most amazing moments of my adult life have been out on the streets with a backpack full of socks making new homeless friends. Helping somebody in crisis with something so simple as a pair of new socks makes you feel grateful for what you have because when you hand them new socks, you’re going to see an amazing smile, shouts for joy, and you’re just going to go, “Wow. My life. I was upset about this today, and this person is happy just because they got new socks?” It’s an amazing experience.

Watch this video for more tips on how to give out socks to homeless people.

Help Celebrate My Sober Birthday on Aug 24th by Donating $24 to End Homelessness

August 24th, 1995 was my last day homeless. It was also my last day drinking and using. I was one of the worst of the worst. I was severely addicted to drugs, homeless and hopeless. If you saw me back on the streets when I was homeless, you would have walked over to the other side. I was really bad.

It’s a miracle that I am even talking to you today. It’s a huge miracle that on August 24th of this year I will celebrate 22 years of sobriety.

Another miracle is the nonprofit I founded. Invisible People has reached over 1.5 billion people in the last five years, and thanks to people just like you, we reach millions of people every month, educating them about homelessness and solutions to end it.

Why that’s so important is we are never going to end homelessness unless we have the support of the general public. Yet most people will not support homeless services or support ending homelessness because they believe the homeless person deserves it. That it’s their fault. That the homeless person causes their own homelessness. Most people blame homelessness on the person instead of on the lack of affordable housing, a lack of a living wage, childhood trauma or all the many reasons that are actually out of a person’s control that can cause homelessness.

We need to teach the general public the real truths about homelessness because they are reacting out of fear. Most people, outside of the homeless services sector, hate homeless people. We need to change that.

Invisible People is the only education-based nonprofit working to end homelessness on a national level, and it’s all thanks to you. Without your support, our important work stops.

This year I’m asking everybody to help celebrate my sober birthday, by visiting our Patreon campaign here and pledging $2 a month to support Invisible People’s important work. $2 a month or $24 a year, my sober birthday is on the 24th, August 24th, 24th of 24.

Over the years, Invisible People has proven that we can do a lot with a little. Imagine the impact if we had the adequate support to reach our potential.

If you can pledge more than $2 a month, please, we need your help. If you like to just make a one-time donation, click here or on the donation link in the website menu. The last couple of years, I’ve done traditional fund raising campaigns on my sober birthday, this year, I’m hoping that we can reach a number of our goals on Patreon.

Patreon has given me new hope that some day, very soon, I’ll be able to dedicate 100% of my time and energy and effort to Invisible People and ending homelessness. With your help, that can happen. Please visit our Patreon campaign and pledge $2 a month, $24 a year to help celebrate my sober birthday on August 24th. Thank you so very much for helping me celebrate 22 years of sobriety in supporting Invisible People’s important work.

Amber posts two videos in response to YouTube comments

Three months ago I posted a video of a young homeless woman on Hollywood Blvd. Amber is putting herself through Los Angeles City College. It’s a powerful story of an amazing woman doing what she can to make her life better against all the odds. Click here to watch the original video.

Everyone knows YouTube is filled with trolls that have nothing better to do than to leave nasty comments. It doesn’t matter the video content; some people will always leave negative comments. Most nonprofits are scared of any controversy, but I see opportunity. Interactive comments allow for the best moments of learning. People think this stuff so let’s get the wrong beliefs out in the open and start conversations. Of course, there are people who will never change their mind about homelessness, so it’s best not to waste any time with them. Overall, Invisible People’s YouTube channel starts amazing conversations teaching people about homelessness.

I always tell people just ignore the comments. It’s not just YouTube. Anytime there is a media hit on the topic of homelessness the comments sections get filled with negativity. It’s a good snapshot into what the general public really think about homelessness but it’s often best to ignore the comments and not read them, and if you do read them, do not give them any emotional energy! But not Amber – she decided to record a video to address the comments directly!

Last night I noticed someone responding back to YouTube comments as Amber. I clicked through to her channel, and there she was responding to YouTube comments with a video. Amber is amazing! She displayed so much maturity telling YouTubers to stop judging others. At one point in the video, she tells people that instead of judging they should go hang out with homeless people! WOW! Here is the first of two videos she posted last night. This first video is to the people posting negative comments.

Then, shortly after, Amber posted a second video to the people leaving nice comments and encouraging her. She tells the YouTubers that leaving nice comments that they are beautiful people. This time Amber is emotional and crying with tears of gratitude. When I played the video last night, I got emotional, and just now I had to fight back the tears after watching it again!

Amber is a fighter. Homelessness is not going to stop her from having an amazing life. The challenges with her teeth are not going to stop her. And most certainly negative comments on YouTube are nothing anymore after she had the courage to address them directly on video.

When I first met Amber, she impressed me.  Today, after watching her video response showing her maturity and courage, I am blown away!

Amber is an amazing young woman!

If you are a dentist or know a dentist in the Los Angeles area that has a heart and may be willing to help Amber with her teeth, please contact me. Maybe, just maybe, we can all rally to help this young woman get a better smile!

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