Did You Know…That the “face” of homelessness may be more recognizable than you expect?

Posted on October 5, 2010

What does the “face” of homelessness look like? We often envision desperate people down on their luck, on the sidewalk or the side of the road, holding strips of cardboard with messages begging for help. But housing crises can happen to anyone.

The faces of renowned celebrities are the faces we are least likely to associate with homelessness. For most of us, images of celebrity go hand-in-hand with images of success, fame, and fortune. So it’s difficult to imagine the likes of actress Halle Berry and comedian Jim Carrey once living out of their cars for months at a time.

Culinary expert Andrew Zimmern of “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” on the Travel Channel experienced homelessness for a year in the streets of lower Manhattan. In his 20s he developed a severe drug and alcohol addiction. “I lived in an abandoned building,” he said. “I was the guy you crossed the street to avoid if you walked by me in New York.”

In 1982 after receiving help in a Minnesota rehabilitation clinic, Zimmern got a second chance and turned his life around by finding a career in one thing he loved – food.  He became an executive chef in Minneapolis’ Café Un Deux Trois and eventually established himself as a television host and freelance writer.

British award-winning singer Sonique, real name Sonia Clarke, whose 2000 chart-topper “It Feels So Good” flooded American radio stations, experienced homelessness at the age of 16 after her mother left the United Kingdom to return to her native Trinidad.  “Like so many others who are homeless, I felt vulnerable, afraid and alone and my life was put on hold. I felt I was in a big hole,” she said.

By telling their stories, these individuals want to spread a message of hope. Yes, housing crises can happen to the best of us, regardless of our gifts and talents, and it often occurs because of circumstances beyond our control. But a second chance can, in many situations, not just get us back on our feet, but lift us to new and unexpected heights of self-fulfillment.

For many here in the Commonwealth, Virginia Supportive Housing is that second chance. By offering the necessary support – in the form of permanent housing and support services – VSH is able to give hope and help people to lead the productive lives they were meant to live.

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