Homelessness remains a major problem in many cities. For a lot of us, these people are a common, everyday sight. Often we’ll see the same homeless people so many times that we’ll stop minding them at all.
But one man named Adam August kept seeing the same man around his local Starbucks and felt compassion for him. He made it a goal to treat the man to lunch one day, but for a long time he made excuses not to.
One day, he finally offered to buy the homeless man a meal.
“It might have been selfish but I was lonely. I didn’t want to spend the whole day alone,” he admitted in a Facebook post.
Regardless of his motivation, he asked him to lunch—and it was a decision that made a huge difference in both of their lives.
Adam finally learned the name of this stranger he saw so often: Tarec Atkinson.
He also learned his story. He was born and raised in Jamaica and was a promising soccer player, until some trouble as a teenager kept him from the field.
He moved to the US eight years ago, but he had been homeless for the last year. He lived in a tent along the highway and often survived on wild berries he would pick.
He was also completely alone. He had no friends or relatives in the states—no one to help him out or contact.
Adam, in want of some company himself, decided to be his friend.
When Tarec told him he hadn’t bathed in a month, Adam invited him home to use his own shower, which he gratefully accepted.
But finding this out also made Adam begin to realize something—being homeless was often an impossible, no-win situation. Tarec was homeless because he didn’t have a job or money—but how could he ever find a job in his condition?
“Of all these hardships, trying to get a job is impossible,” Adam wrote.
“How can you fill out an application when you haven’t eaten in days?”
Adam became determined to help Tarec get a job in any way he could. He agreed to take the man around town to apply for jobs.
But first, they had to buy him new clothing. Adam bought him a new shirt and pants, and he was thrilled to see how the experience changed Tarec.
“I was blown away at the immediate change in his demeanor,” Adam wrote. “His smile was radiant, he stood up straighter, and even walked with a swagger.”
However, he admits he couldn’t get him to tuck in his shirt.
The two went door to door, every store they could find, to inquire if they were hiring.
“I would walk in with him so he knew he wasn’t alone. It can be overwhelming to walk into a business and ask for a job.”
While they “had a few positive responses,” they hit another snag—most of the hiring was done online, and Tarec didn’t have a computer.
A system that makes things convenient for professionals makes it nearly impossible for homeless people. They went to the library to use the public computer, but even then, Tarec was nearly computer illiterate and struggled with the application process.
It was a sight that made Adam even more aware of the struggle homeless people go through.
“Some people judge our homeless. We’ve all heard someone say ‘why don’t they just get a job?’ or ‘they’re lazy.'”
“I saw firsthand how the ‘system’ is set up to fail people like Tarec.”
Still, their luck seemed to finally turn around when Tarec was called in to an interview at a Safeway grocery store. Adam was nervous, but Tarec seemed especially determined on his way to the interview.
Adam waited for 20 minutes for his friend. When Tarec finally came out of the supermarket, Adam was thrilled by what he saw.
“I see him walk out of Safeway with a big smile and a thumbs up.”
He got the job!
“We had accomplished a lot together in two weeks,” Adam wrote. “It was an incredible moment. Obviously we had to celebrate with a little ice cream!”
Adam was thrilled Tarec found a job and was on the path to turning his life around. But his eyes were open to the struggle homeless people go through when applying for jobs, and now he knows the impact a little help from a stranger can have.
He hopes that by sharing his story, he’ll inspire others to do the same.