Entries in Homeless (18)


Homeless Teen Is High School Valedictorian

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga.) -- Becoming the valedictorian of your high school is a difficult and impressive feat in itself, but it's even more impressive for a Georgia teen who did so while her family was homeless.

Chelesa Fearce has a GPA of 4.466 and scored 1900 on her SATs, even though she and her family were without a home for most of her high school years. Sometimes they lived in shelters or inside her mother’s car. Fearce says it was tough at times.

“You'd be worried about your home life and then worried at school,” she said. “Worried about being a little bit hungry sometimes, go hungry sometimes.”

Still, she persevered. “I just had to open my book in the dark and just use a cell phone light. Just do what I had to do,” she said.  

Fearce is graduating with top honors at her school in Clayton County, Ga. She will be attending Spelman College in the fall, but already has enough credits that she’ll be a college junior.

Her message?

“Don't give up,” she said. “Do what you have to do right now so that you'll have the future that you want.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Homeless Man Returns Diamond Ring and Wins Big

ABC News(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) -- A homeless man who returned a diamond engagement ring to a woman who mistakenly dropped it into his donation cup when she was giving him some spare change now stands to be handsomely rewarded for his selfless act.

A fund set up on for Billy Ray Harris, the man who was panhandling on the streets of Kansas City, Mo., earlier this month when he received the valuable donation in error, had received more than $146,000 in donations as of Monday evening.

“It is good to know honesty still exists despite one’s circumstances, which Mr. Harris exemplifies!” wrote one poster, who donated $25. Another who gave $100 added: “People from all over the world salute.”

The donations — more than 6,000 of them in varying amounts — have come in from all over the United States, as well as from Germany, Sweden, Australia, Ireland and other countries. In addition to the congratulations and good wishes that they offered, some donors also urged that Harris receive help to manage the money that was earmarked for him.

Harris himself seemed to be bemused by the outpouring.

“What I actually feel like is, what has the world come to when a person returns something that don’t belong to them and all of this happens?” he said last week in an interview with KTNV-TV, an ABC News affiliate in Las Vegas.

When Harris saw the unintentional donation in his cup on Feb. 8, he kept it safe until its owner, Sarah Darling, returned to ask about it. Her wedding and engagement rings had reportedly been bothering her, so she removed them and put them into her purse, and that’s how they ended up in Harris’ cup.

News of Harris’ act — and Darling’s gratitude — have spread. KTNV-TV reported that complete strangers have sought Harris out to congratulate him and give him food.

The fund was started 10 days ago by Darling’s husband, Bill Krejci. It will close in 80 days, at which time the money will be given directly to Harris, according to a note on the fund’s web page.

In a note that Krejci posted on the website on Feb. 23, he wrote that he had met with Harris and they had chatted.

“We talked about a lot of things related to my family’s ring and the many donations. We talked about one day in the future the ring may one day be passed down to my daughter. We talked about how insanely positive all this has been. We talked about what he’s planning to do with the donations. The details would be better left for later but know that he has a very solid plan and a very solid way of making it happen,” Krejci wrote.

Another bit of good has apparently come out of Harris’ sudden fame. He and his sister have reconnected after having lost touch more than 20 years ago.  She lives in Texas and has reportedly offered him a place to stay with her, KTVN reported. Harris is considering the offer.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Superstorm Sandy: FEMA Trailers May Be Used to House Homeless

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As the Northeast braces for a nor'easter in the wake of superstorm Sandy, government leaders are turning their attention to finding long-term housing for tens of thousands of people left homeless.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) might help some people, but it would be just one way victims of Sandy could find shelter.  Others might move to hotels or other temporary housing.

"There are some local governments that will want trailers.  Many communities on Long Island use trailers during situations like this.  And they're frequently seen.  So some communities, it's going to be a community by community option," Cuomo said at a Monday press conference.

There are still more than 1.4 million homes and businesses without power -- more than 115,000 in New York City alone.  Sandy has left as many as 40,000 New Yorkers homeless, according to city officials.  About half of those people live in public housing.

FEMA has already dispensed close to $200 million in emergency housing assistance and put 34,000 people in New York and New Jersey in hotels and motels.  Still, city and state officials have not laid out an official plan with specifics to move the homeless into long-term housing in an already congested area.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Monday that the government's first priority is getting people to a warm place where they can eat a hot meal.  Beyond that, the government wants to find housing as close to people's homes as possible.

"We're in the process of looking at all options for housing," she said.  "Given the extent of the housing need, no option is off the table."

Compounding the immediate need for housing is a nor'easter that is expected to bring rain and high winds on Wednesday to the areas hit hard by Sandy.

"There's always a chance of there being a little snow.  But right now, it looks like most of the rainfall from this system will be confined to coastal areas.  We expect most of it, especially across the mid-Atlantic region that were hit by Sandy, to fall in the form of rain," Brian Korty, a forecaster at the National Weather Service, told ABC News.

The worst weather for New York City and the tri-state area will be Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday evening, with wind gusts along the coast near 50 mph.  A storm surge of 1 to 4 feet is possible in coastal New Jersey and Long Island.

"Under normal conditions it wouldn't be that problematic.  This is complicated because this is a storm that would approach before we have recovered from the first storm," Cuomo said.

The Red Cross doesn't expect the nor'easter to hurt its ability to get hot meals to victims.

"We have 5,300 Red Cross workers from all over the country who are here trying to help.  And as long as it's safe to do so, volunteers will be out there," said Red Cross worker Daphne Hart.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Homeless Man Traveled US for 20 Years with Stolen Credit Card Info

Orange County Jail(LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.) -- A homeless man "sick of running" told police that he had spent two decades memorizing credit card numbers and using them to fraudulently stay in hotels across the country, according to police.

Jeffrey Hawkins, 49, was confronted by police on Oct. 23 at Walt Disney World's Coronado Springs Resort, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for previously trespassing there.

ABC News and Walt Disney World Resorts are both owned by the Walt Disney Company.

"At that time rather than speak about the trespassing Hawkins started speaking about credit card fraud," Orange County Sheriff's Officer Frank DelGuercio wrote in a police report.

After being read his Miranda rights and deciding to waive those rights, Hawkins told authorities he wanted to talk because he was "sick of running."

"Hawkins then began to confess that he has been committing credit card fraud since the 90s," DelGuercio wrote.  "He stated that he has been homeless and jobless since then and has just been traveling the country using and obtaining other people's credit card numbers."

Hawkins told police he was able to remember and then write down credit card numbers and expiration dates that he would see or hear.

A Disney security investigator told police that Hawkins was the man they had filed reports about in reference to at least 26 separate incidents of credit card fraud totaling over $18,000, according to the police report.

During a search of Hawkins' room, authorities found "numerous" credit card authorization forms, receipts from hotels, business cards and paperwork, according to the report.  The paperwork had lists of over 100 credit card numbers and expiration dates.  He also had three phones.

"I found numerous cards, receipts and other items indicating that Hawkins has been up and down the East Coast doing the same thing," DelGuercio wrote.

He was charged with trafficking in stolen credit cards, false statements, fraudulent use of credit cards and defrauding an innkeeper.

Hawkins is being held on a $2,900 bond.  His inmate records did not indicate that he has attained an attorney.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dallas to Recognize Heroic Efforts of Homeless Former Crips Leader

This still from a surveillance video shows Charles Alexander assisting in subduing a man who attacked a Dallas Police officer. (KTVT)(DALLAS) -- The Dallas City Council will invite a homeless former gang leader to be honored at one of its meetings as a hero for protecting the life of a police officer.

Charles Alexander, who was a Crips gang member at one point in his life, stepped in during a drug-addled attack on an officer near Alexander's homeless shelter in Dallas, according to city councilman Dwaine Caraway.

In surveillance video of the attack, Dallas cop Billy Taylor is seen backing away from a man who, according to the councilman, was high on PCP and violent. Alexander crosses the street and steps between Taylor and the attacker, later pulling the man off the police officer and throwing the attacker to the ground.

"(He was) basically doing something heroic, in my opinion, in breaking up something that could have really gone bad," Caraway said Thursday.

Alexander told local news station KTXA that the attacker was going "ballistic" and he felt he had to step in.

The Dallas police department did not return calls seeking comment.

Caraway said that Alexander would be invited to an upcoming council meeting for a special ceremony and certificate to honor his good deed.

"I view it as someone that was in a gang who has gone on to saving lives. Hopefully we can take that and show other gangbangers that there are some good things you can do versus some of the other things," Caraway said.

Alexander could not be reached through the Bridge, the homeless shelter where he stays.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Homeless Man Loses Leg in Freight Car Fright

KTVX/ABC News(SALT LAKE CITY) -- A 19-year-old train-hopper, who became trapped underneath heavy sheets of steel inside a freight car on Thursday, was rescued when a surgeon rushed to the scene to perform an emergency amputation.

The homeless teen, who authorities have not named citing medical privacy laws, was discovered Thursday by rail workers in South Salt Lake City, Utah, much of his lower body pinned under several hundred pounds of steel.

The man and his dog had hopped the train in Denver, illegally riding the rails in an open-top freight car filled with heavy sheets of metal each between 10 and 15 feet long, authorities said.

"He became trapped when the load of tight steel shifted and pinned him underneath," said Chief Ron Morris of the South Salt Lake Fire Department.

By the time emergency workers arrived at the scene, the man had been trapped for eight hours. His dog was already dead.

Workers tried for two hours to lift the steel off of him using a small crane, Morris told ABC News, but were unsuccessful as the man began losing consciousness.

Working against the clock, rescue workers set up a "sanitary MASH unit inside the car," and flew in a surgeon from University Hospital to perform an emergency amputation, Morris said.

The man's right leg was amputated. His left leg and pelvis were severely crushed and his right arm was fractured. The man was flown to a nearby hospital and remains in critical condition.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Why Is PETA Fighting Program Pairing Panhandlers with Dogs?

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Animal rights organization PETA is fighting against the launch of San Francisco’s Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos (WOOF) program, which will pay previously homeless people now living in sponsored public housing to foster dogs that are at risk of being euthanized.

PETA has offered to give $10,000 to the program if they leave animals out of it.

Teresa Chagrin, PETA’s animal care and control specialist, calls the program, “A lure to keep people from panhandling. Many chronic panhandlers battle with addiction issues. These animals are supposedly not adoptable. Putting these two troubled populations together is very likely to result in disaster.”

Bevan Dufty, director of San Francisco’s Housing Opportunities, Partnership, and Engagement (HOPE) initiative, said that while some of the housing residents do resort to panhandling, they should not be labeled as panhandlers, but as people trying to get their lives back on track, and are fully able to care for pets.

“These are individuals who have been through job readiness programs, who live in our buildings. They were individually interviewed, went through orientation, and have gotten a gold star of approval,” Dufty said.

San Francisco’s Animal Care & Control, HOPE’s partner in launching the program, also said that PETA’s claims are unfounded.

“You have this image of us pulling up in a van full of dogs handing them out to people,” ACC director Rebecca Katz said. “We would not be putting animals at risk. Our job is to investigate animal abuse and neglect. We are going to have a lot more oversight during this fostering program than if they were to just adopt dogs on their own.”

ACC’s involvement, however, does not lessen PETA’s concerns.

“I don’t believe that people at Animal Care & Control have a lot of experience dealing with people with mental health and addiction issues,” Chagrin said. “You can’t put dogs with people who are battling their own demons.”

PETA’s protests have not slowed WOOF down, which begins its first trial in August with 10 individuals working in pairs with five dogs.

Both Dufty and Katz said they believe PETA’s objections highlight the extreme negative prejudice faced by the homeless, making this program even more important.

“I’m pretty horrified by some of the criticism I’ve seen. They believe anybody who has ever been on the street has mental and addiction issues,” Katz said.

Dufty echoed Katz’s attitude, “In order to be effective in responding to homelessness, you can’t ignore the humanity of people. Ultimately this program is about giving dogs and people a second chance, and I don’t see how you can argue against that.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Abandoned Teen Graduates from Homeless Custodian to Harvard University

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C.) -- After returning from a prestigious academic summer program in Raleigh, N.C., last summer, Dawn Loggins found her parents had left. To complete her high school senior year, she began "couch-surfing" in friends' houses. She'd wake up at 5:20 a.m. each day, begin work as a school custodian, focus on a roster of advanced placement and honors courses, complete more custodial work and then hit the books.

The early mornings and late nights paid off. Now, she will graduate from Burns High School in Cleveland County, N.C. Next, she is headed to Harvard University.

Dawn spent much of her life moving frequently from one home to another and attending a number of different schools. Despite the circumstances, she said, she was committed to doing whatever was necessary to excel in school.

"Education is a means to make something better of myself," she told ABC News.

Dawn recalled having to do homework by candlelight because the power had been disconnected and having to cook noodles on a wood stove after her mother and stepfather lost their jobs. Focusing on her school work, she said, helped her deal with the family's circumstances. She had no idea what she might have to deal with next.

After she returned last summer to find her parents gone, she found she had no way to reach them because their phone services had been disconnected. Determined to complete her senior year at Burns, Dawn stayed for a few days at a time at the homes of friends until finally finding a home with Sheryl Kolton, a friend's mother who was also a custodian at the school. It would be a few months before she learned that her parents had gone to Tennessee for a visit and decided to stay.

Dawn's school year consisted of very long days. After cleaning for two hours, she would begin her school day of tough classes, including AP U.S. history, AP calculus, and honors English, and she participated in various school clubs and honor societies. After school and two more hours of cleaning work, she'd still have hours of homework, often keeping her up until midnight or 2 a.m. The late nights paid off as Dawn earned at 3.9 GPA and scored 2,110 on her SAT. She was committed to not just graduating high school, but finding a way to go to college.

"A high school diploma doesn't mean anything if you don't do anything with it," she said.

She began applying to colleges with the help of her counselor and a friend of the school's principal. She initially applied to Davidson College, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Warner Wilson College. After the persistent urging of those helping her, she also applied to Harvard.

The acceptance letters started arriving, mostly in larger, thick envelopes. Then one day, an envelope arrived from Harvard.

"It was a small envelope; you never want a small envelope," she said.

But inside was a letter admitting Dawn into the Harvard class of 2016.

"I was kind of surprised," she said. "I didn't jump and down or scream or cry or anything, but I was happy. I guess I'm not easily exited. I'm not a very emotional person."

But Dawn wasn't so sure that she would be heading to Massachusetts -- not until she was able to visit this spring, thanks to school staff pooling their money to pay for her trip.

"After visiting Harvard, I couldn't see myself anywhere else," she said.

Dawn will receive financial aid from Harvard and get an on-campus job to help pay for tuition, room and board. She also has saved money from her job to help with books and other essentials.

As for her field of study, Dawn plans to major in biology and is considering a career in biomedical research. When asked what she is most looking forward to as she heads off to college, her reply was one word.

"Stability," she said.

Dawn reflected on her life growing up and said she just wants to be able support herself and not worry about losing power or not being able to buy food.

Even though her mother may not have been the best mom, she said, she still loves her parents. Both will be at her high school graduation.

Dawn wants to focus on her future, not her past, and hopes that she can motivate other students, like her two younger sisters, to further their education beyond high school in order to have a better life.

"I'm in a good place right now," she said. "I have a lot of community support."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Homeless Teenager Invited to State of the Union

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- In the past week, Samantha Garvey‘s love of mussels has given her family a home and saved her a seat at President Obama’s State of the Union address.

Garvey, a homeless high school senior with a 3.9 grade point average, garnered recognition after she became a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search for her work studying the effects of predators on mussels.

Inspired by her story of overcoming the odds, Long Island Rep. Steve Israel offered Garvey a coveted gallery ticket to the Jan. 24 State of the Union address.

Israel is not the first person who was motivated to act after hearing Garvey’s story. Suffolk county official Steve Bellone announced last week that Garvey and her family, who have lived in shelters and hotels for years, could soon move into a rent-subsidized home.

Garvey will find out next month whether she’s a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, the top prize is $100,000.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Suspect Arrested in Killing of Homeless Man in California

Ed Freeman/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- A man was arrested on Friday in connection with the stabbing death of a homeless man in Anaheim, Calif., the latest in a string of homicides committed against homeless men in the area.

The stabbing occurred Friday night and the victim was identified only as "John," a Vietnam War veteran in his 60s. Police have neither positively identified the victim nor notified his next of kin, said Sgt. Bob Dunn, an Anaheim police spokesman.

He had complained to those who knew him that he thought he was being stalked.

"He said 'I need to talk to you.' He said 'I think I came in contact with the serial killer last night.' Immediately, I was concerned," Jim Burke told ABC News affiliate KABC of Los Angeles.

"Why would you kill a homeless person? They do nothing wrong, especially him … He was a nice person," said Kevin Christensen, adding that he also knew the victim, who was well liked by many locals.

Witnesses told police that they chased Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, of Yorba Linda, Calif., after the stabbing. Police were called at 8:17 p.m. and arrested Ocampo and searched his home, police said.

The three other knife slayings of homeless men have put the homeless community and their advocates on high alert, and prompted the launch of a special task force comprised of FBI agents and police investigators from Anaheim, Yorba Linda and Placentia.

Anaheim's Deputy Police Chief Craig Hunter said, " We're not speculating at that this time about this suspect's connection to any of those other homicides."

The other victims include James Patrick McGillivray, 53, who was killed near a shopping center in Placentia on Dec. 20; Lloyd Middaugh, 42, found near a riverbed trail in Anaheim on Dec. 28; and Paulus Smit, 57, killed outside a Yorba Linda library on Dec. 30

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio