Monday, February 25, 2008

Homeless: Can you build a life from $25?

This is an amazing story about a guy with a college education who, just to see if it could be done, became homeless and tried to build a life for himself starting with just $25.

Meet Adam Shepard, his goal was to have a car, a job and $2500 in the bank after a year. After 10 months he had a car, a job and $5000 in the bank!

His story truly is inspiring. I can't wait to read the whole book but I love how he repeatedly eschews any attempt to suggest that he had an advantage because of his education and upbringing. Instead he talks about the lessons HE learned from the people who started out less fortunate than he did.

Homeless: Can you build a life from $25?

But surely your background – you're privileged; you have an education and a family – made it much easier for you to achieve.

[Adam]I didn't use my college education, credit history, or contacts [while in South Carolina]. But in real life, I had these lessons that I had learned. I don't think that played to my advantage. How much of a college education do you need to budget your money to a point that you're not spending frivolously, but you're instead putting your money in the bank?

Do you need a college education? I don't think so. To be honest with you, I think I was disadvantaged, because my thinking was inside of a box. I have the way that I lived [in North Carolina] – and to enter into this totally new world and acclimate to a different lifestyle, that was the challenge for me.


Would your project have changed if you'd had child-care payments or been required to report to a probation officer? Wouldn't that have made it much harder?

The question isn't whether I would have been able to succeed. I think it's the attitude that I take in: "I've got child care. I've got a probation officer. I've got all these bills. Now what am I going to do? Am I going to continue to go out to eat and put rims on my Cadillac? Or am I going to make some things happen in my life...?" One guy, who arrived [at the shelter] on a Tuesday had been hit by a car on [the previous] Friday by a drunk driver. He was in a wheelchair. He was totally out of it. He was at the shelter. And I said, "Dude, your life is completely changed." And he said, "Yeah, you're right, but I'm getting the heck out of here." Then there was this other guy who could walk and everything was good in his life, but he was just kind of bumming around, begging on the street corner. To see the attitudes along the way, that is what my story is about.

That makes me feel almost ashamed for not having a better attitude about my career and education. It definitely gives me pride to live in a Country where you can start at the bottom and with enough hard work and a good attitude be very successful. Especially if you have an attitude similar to Adam's:

You made it out of the shelter, got a job, and opened a bank account. Did you meet other people who had similar experiences?

Oh, absolutely. We don't need "Scratch Beginnings" to know that millions of Americans are creating a life for themselves from nothing.... Just as millions of Americans are not getting by. There are both ends of the spectrum.

To meet that guy [in the wheelchair] at the shelter, [makes you wonder] 'Can he get out and go to college and become a doctor?' Maybe, maybe not. I think he can set goals..... You can use your talents. That's why, from the beginning, I set very realistic goals: $2,500, a job, car. This isn't a "rags-to-riches million-dollar" story. This is very realistic. I truly believe, based on what I saw at the shelter ...that anyone can do that.

That's one thing about liberals and really politicians in general. You never hear them say "you CAN do it". It's always "What you've already done should have been good enough and I'm the one who can fix this injustice". Even if the pols have good intentions they are discouraging the attitude that will ultimately help the poor become not poor.

Here is another interview with Adam from one of my favorite websites Get Rich Slowly:

Even now, though, in my current life where I have a little bit more financial freedom, I’m still always looking to save money. Why do I need to go to the “real movie theatre” when I can go to the “dolla-fitty” and watch movies that might be a month or two old? Why Eddie Bauer, when Marshall’s essentially has the same clothes? Why Dr. Pepper when there’s Dr. Thunder? And on and on. Even with money to spare, I’m looking for ways to put that money to work for me rather than spending it on items that I don’t truly need for right now.

I know that one day I’ll be financially free enough to own the car I want, the house I want, the clothes I want. That day is not today, but the idea of delaying gratification keeps me going.

Is it really that easy? You were able to do this because you had a goal. What was the situation like for those people you worked and lived with? Did they have goals? Did they save?

Of course it’s easy for me to say it was easy. I had a goal. I was out to prove a point. I had the mentality and I knew what I had to do to get the results I wanted.

But what surprised me most, and what makes my story so fascinating, is that so many people around me were doing the same thing. It was most prevalent in the shelter (where some people had spent a lifetime learning from their mistakes), but it was just as prevalent outside of the shelter with guys like Derrick Hale, who emerges as the hero of my experience in Charleston.

Derrick was a guy I was working with at the moving company. He had come from rural Kingstree, SC, and he truly knew what poverty was like having grown up in a world of bologna and pickle sandwiches and maybe the lights will turn on, maybe not. And there he was in Charleston, saving his money just like I was. Actually, that’s cocky of me to say, since I was learning so many lessons from him.

Derrick was unique in that not only did he have a goal, but he had a vision for achieving that goal. There’s a monumental difference, and I really learned that throughout the course of my time in Charleston. Everybody knows what they want (nice house, car, vacation money, etc.) and many people know what can get in the way of achieving those goals (see poor spending habits above). But! Some people really struggle with the discipline of their vision. Derrick wanted a house, and near the end of my time in Charleston, he moved into a brand new 3-bedroom, two-story house, with a patio and a fenced in yard for his daughter and dog to play. He was 25 and he worked as a mover, but he knew how to handle his money.

So, is it realistic to set goals and save your money and make worthy investments? Of course it is! Are people doing it? Of course they are, just as there are people that are squandering their money to bad habits.

Read the whole thing. You will be glad you did

Also check out his website Scratch Beginnings.