What Jessica’s Story Looks Like | Interview

NAME: Jessica Jones
From: Richmond, VA
Fact: Jessica is an angel and I love her
Another fact: Jessica is one of the most fun people I know

Jessica works for the Real Life Center in Richmond, VA. To read more about the Real Life Center, visit THIS blog post interviewing the founder, Dr. Sarah Scarbrough.

I started to talk to Jessica about how they help the homeless. She said that ultimately, they try to point them in the right direction for housing… mentioning that Real Life has their recovery house but it only hosts 9 people at a time. It’s hard for her to come to work the next day and see SO many more people who need help as people line up for the soup kitchen that’s right next door to their office.

Jessica worked for Dr. Sarah in the jail which is how she ended up working with the Real Life Center.

“We don’t clock out” – Jessica’s work is constantly on.

I asked Jessica about emotional challenges that come with the job. I think questions like this are SO important to ask people who are working in this field because so many people can’t imagine voluntarily stepping into such difficult work.

“So, literally the intake I just did before I came in here was a victim of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.” Jessica then went on to mention how this is something she sees and hears every single day, and how it’s hard not to become numb to it.

Occasionally, Jessica will get hit with a hard story and say to herself, “I need a minute.” This simple sentence from someone who perpetually stays in a state of listening to hard stories is proof that being in a tough field like this doesn’t keep you immune to being overcome with emotion for people in hard situations. You can only turn it off so much for so long until you get it really hard once in a while.

They call this secondary trauma.

Jessica made a statement I loved. She said she would take this traumatic and heavy stress over frivolous stress any day. This is another reason I adore her and her heart.

Jessica said she was so sensitive before she started working in the jail. She grew thicker skin and was used to being in a male dominated profession. She knows that her experience working in the jail totally set her up to be able to handle working for the Real Life Center.

Do you have any favorite people that you’ve worked with? She talked about her favorite gentleman they’ve worked with, stories of how kind he is and how when he relapsed they were SO worried but how he’s doing well now. “He just pulls on my heart strings” Jessica mentioned. “Does he know that you guys love him?” I asked. She said he definitely knows he’s a favorite, haha!

Can you imagine this man’s life without this kind of support? I’m willing to bet that Jessica and the Real Life staff will never know the magnitude of how important they have been to him. I love what they are giving to people. Support and hope is everything.

“What do you wish people knew about homelessness…especially people who are like ‘they should just get a job?’” I asked Jessica.

Jessica replied, “Oh my gosh, it’s not that easy. And when they call them bums? Ugh. Okay, some of it I understand. I understand the stereotype of not understanding and just putting a label on something just because you don’t understand it.” Then candidly Jessica and I BOTH agreed that we grew up being encouraged to stay away from the homeless, not to talk to them, not to make eye contact, etc.

Jessica mentioned how studies show now that an overwhelming amount of people are ONE paycheck away from being homeless. She hit the nail on the head. YES. In recent sociological research I did – I saw that if Mike was the only one working in our home, we would BARELY be above the poverty line for a family of five. WOW.

“Making $7.35 an hour is not going to give them a place to live.”

I AGREE, girl, I agree.

I asked what the Real Life Center could use the most of and Jessica remarked that awareness is what they could use a lot of. Sometimes people are ignorant to how important the work they are doing is and they like to “other” people, or assume that “those people aren’t like them” – and HELLO, that is what Homeless Looks Like is ALL about! We are connectors. We are POSITIVE that we are all so much more alike than different. We love to bring awareness to this.

Jessica selflessly goes to work daily determined to make a difference. I know that the reason the Real Life Center has shined so bright in its first year plus of operation is because of the wonderful people who show up to do the hard work that has been needed for so long, and Jessica you are such a warm, inspiring part of that. We are SO honored to know you!

ENJOY JESSICA’S SHALLOW QUESTIONS SURVEY BELOW AND CLICK THE LINKS BELOW TO EXPLORE THE REAL LIFE CENTER’S WEBSITE, INSTAGRAM AND FACEBOOK!

THANKS FOR READING!

 

Thank you for reading about Jessica and all of the incredible work she is doing with the REAL LIFE Center in Richmond, Virginia!!

Real Life on Instagram
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Support Real Life

THANK YOU for showing up for Homeless Looks Like.

Warmly, Amanda, Amanda + Mike

PLEASE LIKE US ON INSTAGRAM & FACEBOOK!

Shallow questions and answers from Jessica HERE:

What Sarah’s Story Looks Like | Interview

What a JOY and honor to be able to interview the founder of the Real Life Center of Richmond, Virginia, Dr. Sarah Scarbrough and get HER take on what it’s like to work with people who have been in homeless conditions and/or other challenging life situations including incarceration, addiction or both. The Real Life Center recently celebrated it’s one year anniversary and within that time they served DOUBLE of the amount of people they anticipated – topping 400 people who were helped free of charge to be able to acquire the tools and skills to move forward toward new beginnings and a sustainable lifestyle. The work that is being done is immeasurable but if you want to check out the end of the year report, here’s a link to follow!: Real Life Report 2018

Dr. Scarbrough was also not surprisingly named a Richmond Times Dispatch 2018 Person of the Year Honoree for all of her good work 🙂

Let’s get to talking with Dr. Sarah Scarbrough and see what she had to say about homelessness, incarceration, addiction, her nonprofit and how she handles all of this as a working mom and wife!

Name: Dr. Sarah Scarbrough

Born in: Northern VA but Richmond, VA is home

Dr. Scarbrough spent ten years working in Richmond jail, the latter five as the program director and that’s what Real Life Center was birthed out of.

Click here to visit the website for the REAL LIFE CENTER and also check them out on Facebook! They have a wonderful presence and inspirational posts!

I asked Sarah if she just saw a general need for what the Real Life Center would do for people getting out of prison or if it was one event that gave her the idea for it – and she told me the story of a man named Carlos.

Carlos was getting out of jail and they had managed to get him so many of the things he would need to start his new life. Everyone was so excited for him! He had a lease signed and ready to go, he had silverware, furniture donated, EVERYTHING…except toilet paper. And guess what? When you’re out of jail and you don’t yet have any money, you can’t just go buy a roll of toilet paper at the Dollar Tree for a dollar…because you don’t yet have that dollar. There is a need for a better and more realistic transition for these people.

When I asked Sarah who they worked with at the Real Life Center, she told me “We will work with anyone in an adverse situation that’s willing and wanting to change and willing to go through our process. The biggest thing that our clients face is incarceration, substance use disorder and/or homelessness and frankly most of our folks have all three of those things that they’ve experienced in the past.”

They are honest about housing and managing expectations and the goal is to immediately develop a plan and then they begin to move through a screening process.

Want to hear something heartbreaking Dr. Scarbrough mentioned? Some of their clients are happier homeless. We talked about a woman who sleeps outside of their place every single night who feels safer being homeless because she was sexually assaulted in her homes growing up by the men in her life.

Dr. Sarah Scarbrough is also a mom who adores her family and when I asked her how it was to balance a job that can be so emotionally heavy and taxing, she mentioned this:

Sarah talked about the emotional challenges that come with the job and how separating work and life can be tough. She’ll hear about a mother who is homeless with her kids on the streets and knowing she gets to come home and be with her kids, it can be so hard.

The other effect that is there… is when people don’t make it. “They don’t see in themselves what we see in them.”

“We can’t save anybody, we just provide the tools and hope that they use them and hope that the seeds were planted, even if it’s years down the road.”

We started to talk about what it’s like when people work through the program and succeed. One of the things I LOVE about Real Life is that they are enthusiastic about celebrating every little accomplishment and milestone for their clients. 30 days sober, finishing phase one of the program – just learning to celebrate and be proud of the little steps that add up instead of waiting to only celebrate the end goal. Real Life is the cheerleader that these people desperately need encouraging them on the sidelines.

Sarah printed out a certificate to congratulate one of their clients, brought it to the house and the client had tears in his eyes. She went over to ask if everything was okay and to her surprise, he responded “no one has ever told me that they’re proud of me”.

Who are some of your favorite people that you’ve met? “Some of the people that society has written off the most are some of the people I enjoy working with the most. Violent offenders, that fight the most, the biggest troublemakers are the best ones to work with because no one else is willing to take them on.”

Dr. Scarbrough went on to say how these “tough” people are often not as tough as you would think. When you start peeling back the layers of the onion, you often find someone who has been through abuse, trauma and is actually scared – those are some of the people who need this kind of program the most.

What’s it like when you watch them move through the program? “You literally see transformation before your eyes, the way that they talk changes, their face changes, the way they dress changes, everything about them slowly changes…I mean they look happier, they look healthier, they have more confidence, they’ll look you in the eye…whereas before they would never.”

You guys, Sarah is a JOY. She is hilarious, she’s a perfect mix of tough and kind and what she’s doing is hard work that most people could never imagine diving head first into… but her vision with the Real Life program is proving to change hundreds of lives. If you want a quick and effective look into seeing the work they are doing in Richmond, Virginia – read this report & infographic!

You can donate HERE (see below how your support helps!)

$17.50 sponsors transportation for one person for a week

$30.00 sponsors getting a state identification and birth certificate for one person

$60.00 sponsors transportation for one person for a month

$600 sponsors one person to live in the REAL House for 6 months

$888 sponsors one person to receive services at the Center for a year (this cost is down from the initial cost to serve a person for $1,320)

 

Thank you for reading about Sarah and all of the AMAZING WORK she is doing with the REAL LIFE Center in Richmond, Virginia!!

THANK YOU for showing up for Homeless Looks Like.

Warmly, Amanda, Amanda + Mike

PLEASE LIKE US ON INSTAGRAM & FACEBOOK!

 

Shallow question answers from Sarah HERE:

Your Story Matters Apparel!!! | FUNDRAISER

You guys, for months I would wear “Your Story Matters” shirts and have people ask – when can I get one of those!?

NOW YA CAN FRIENDS, now you can. We have a short but pumped up campaign running via Bonfire where you can order beautiful shirts with our logo for a great price and we get a generous donation from each purchase! This is our FIRST fundraising campaign and we think it’s so amazing that is doubles as a way to spread our mission by having people wear our logo and start the conversation with people about what Homeless Looks Like is.

We share STORIES. We insist that everyone’s story matters.
We know we can’t jump to judgement or to conclusions when we see someone who is homeless.
We know they are not invisible and they are humans worthy of interaction and conversation.

Would you like to look around and pick up a crew neck, long sleeve or t-shirt? Or can you share for us? We are over halfway to our goal and we are SO hoping to sell 30 of these total!!! 🙂 THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! 🙂

SHOP YOUR STORY MATTERS HERE

xoxo, the Homeless Looks Like TEAM
Amanda, Amanda &  Mike

What John’s Story Looks Like | Interview

Name: John

Nicknames: Clyde (because people call he and his fiance Kisha Bonnie & Clyde…you can read her story HERE)

Born in: Maplewood NJ

When John’s grandpa passed away, he became homeless.

I asked if he liked Richmond, Virginia and he told us he would return to NJ if he could.

Do you talk to your family at all? He told me “they treat me like crap.” He said that they’ll talk to him when something good is happening in their life.

Growing up, John loved school. His favorite subject was math. I told him I totally respect that because I was very, very bad at math, LOL!

When we asked about employment that he previously held, John mentioned that he has a history of holding jobs for longer periods of time. One for seven years, one for ten years.

What is something you would want people to know about you? He mentioned the looks he’s given and how people will just walk right by you. Then John said something that broke my heart…”My grandma told that you choose to be homeless”. He reiterated how he would NEVER choose what is happening to him.

Was there a specific event that led you to becoming homeless or a combination of things? He reminded me it happened when his grandfather passed away from cancer. My mother had to foreclose on the house. So then instead of my mother getting a three bedroom, she got a two bedroom. That’s when I knew I was homeless.”

John then told us that his family is connected with him on Facebook, and I asked if they knew he was experiencing this and he said “they think this is a joke”.

“Without Kisha, I wouldn’t know what to do.”

That came up without any prompting. He just felt compelled to tell us that.

He said “my mother said (about he and Kisha) ‘it’s y’all against everybody else’” – our team at Homeless Looks Like agrees that with nicknames like Bonnie and Clyde, that description is pretty well fitting 🙂

What’s the hardest part about being homeless physically? John replied, “physically, sleeping in the street. I can’t get no sleep.” I said to John that I know he probably has to look out for he and Kisha’s stuff and he said “I don’t sleep…I let her sleep.” He said he may get a wink in, but he has to watch out for people who may try to rob or hurt you.

Whew…when he said “I let her sleep” – we were just over the moon for him. What a gentleman.

John said emotionally the hardest part of being homeless is not having a “plan B” and not having security. He has always felt a lack of security in his life.

I asked what the best thing to happen to him recently was and he couldn’t think of anything.

Growing up John said he never imagined he would end up homeless.


When I asked if anyone could give him anything right now, what would it be? John said “an apartment”. If they had to give something smaller to him at that exact moment…John said he would like them “just to spend some time” with him.

That is SO John to say something humble and kind like that.

John is so sweet you guys. His voice is so gentle and calm. He’s so incredibly nice. It was a gift to be in his presence for this interview.

What truth would you want people to know about homelessness? “People really treat you like crap… I wish we could trade shoes just for one day and see if you could make it.”

One day at VCU, a woman and a bunch of kids walked by and said out loud “I could only imagine”. I’m not sure you want to, lady. I wish she would have stopped and offered a kind gesture instead of just making her statement, but that is EXACTLY WHY we have started Homeless Looks Like. We want to spread awareness.

What do you want your life to look like one year from now? “To have an apartment, and have a car.”

Want to know what ended up happening with John? If you read our last blog post about his fiance Kisha…you already know! They ARE currently warm and in an apartment!!! Praise Jesus!

Thank you for reading about John and giving him a voice. You insist his story matters just by reading it. You are a big part of what is going to change people’s lives… THANK YOU for showing up for Homeless Looks Like.

Warmly, Amanda, Amanda + Mike

PLEASE LIKE US ON INSTAGRAM & FACEBOOK!

 

Shallow question answers from John HERE:

What Kisha’s Story Looks Like | Interview

I am thinking that you guys are going to really feel for Kisha. Her heart is made of gold and she’s short, scrappy (sound familiar? I think we are sisters LOL!) and engaged to a man named John whom we also had the pleasure of interviewing after her.

Nicknames? They call my fiancé and I Bonnie and Clyde because we’re always together.

Where are you from? Newark, NJ

Kisha made her way south when her sister told her to move down to Richmond, Virginia.

When I asked her about her family…she responded: “I don’t deal with them, when I stayed with them they treated us like crap.” She told us she really only talks to her sister.

School life & education: “I went to an inner city school, it wasn’t that good for me…I was picked on because I was small. I stayed in fights because of it. I just got tired of it. I used to just cry until I got tired of it. It turned me into a beast. In Newark you better fight. You better fight or they’re going to keep getting you.”

Jobs: Kisha worked at the airport in Newark cleaning the inside of the aircrafts. Then years later…she got a job working at the same airport. She was fired when she got tired dealing with an irate manager who was always in her face. Her favorite job she had? None. “I didn’t really have a favorite job, I just did them, cause I had to.”

I asked if she liked any activities or sports and she replied “I like music. Singing.” And when I asked her what her fiancé thought about her singing? She said he says what my daughters (the mermaid mafia) say “No, please stop”…LOL!

What’s something you would want people to know about you if they hadn’t met you before?: “To know that I’m human, too. To not look down on me because of where I am.” “I’ve been where you are and I keep telling people, ‘look, you could be in this predicament, too’.”

Kisha then mentioned she suffers from a few mental illnesses. She said that she does have medication she is able to get with insurance but that sometimes…she doesn’t have water or something to drink to take her medicine with. Can you imagine? Something some incredibly accessible for so many of us.

We then asked Kisha if she has to worry about her medication getting stolen (it would SHOCK you how many homeless people are robbed). She said she is really smart about keeping it close but that they’ve had to throw away so many things since becoming homeless, including sentimental items.

“You should see some of the looks we get, and the comments that are made.”

Amanda S: “Do people ever stop and ask if you need anything?”

Kisha: “You know something funny? The ones that are homeless help us out more.”

Was there a specific event that led you to being homeless? “Combination of everything…when he lost his job we couldn’t afford the light bill. And eventually… we had to move out.”

Then we asked how long her and her fiancé John had been engaged…she said eight years. We kept telling Kisha that there are people with all of the money in the world who will never know a love like hers. She started to cry. Our hearts started to break for her and I pulled out a tissue for her but really..I just wanted to let my tears roll down, too.

“I’m tired of being out here. The days are not that bad, but it’s bad enough…but night is when it gets worse.”

Kisha then told us how she repeatedly applies for jobs and tries so hard to find employment. One job called her back to hire her but didn’t contact her for the orientation and she repeatedly called them back about it. Talk about getting your hopes up.

What’s the hardest part physically about being homeless for you? “At night…if there’s nowhere feeding [i.e.: churches, shelters, soup kitchens] you gotta be hungry.”

What about emotionally? Kisha responded to this question and broke down. “Emotionally? I stay depressed. And I smile, I try to hide it. Every night I’m crying and crying and crying. I can’t even describe it, it’s just hard. In the day time it’s not too bad cause you can go in a lot of places like the library but the nights, it gets hard. And it’s getting colder.”

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you recently? She couldn’t think of anything…so I said, what about your man? And Kisha replied, “Just him. Basically we all we’ve got”

Did you ever think you would end up homeless? “No. Well, we had some homeless points when I was growing up but I didn’t think that I ever was going to wind up like this.”

What would you want somebody to say or do for you if they approached you when you were outside? “Just tell me where I can find affordable housing. That’s all.”

If they could get something for you right away what would you want? “I would want the food and the clothes, and I mean money can help and do a lot of things”.

Kisha is 50 years old and she wants to be independent. She wants to live in an apartment with her fiancé, John (who guess what…is our NEXT interviewee on the blog!).

And can we go ahead and spoil ALL of this for you???

THEY ARE IN HOUSING. Shortly after our interview…blessings started to come. Left and right. They were approved for an apartment and moved in and had a WARM, cozy Christmas. Friends of ours collected food, furniture, small appliances and SO many helpful items to give Kisha and John the life they have been dreaming of for so long. We did ALL of this just by word of mouth and only accepting a couple of donations from friends. Can you imagine the impact we can have as we grow?! THANK YOU to all who helped them!

Visit our Instagram for a sweet video from them HERE 🙂

And you know what…this interview stuff gets heavy. Really heavy. So we decided we would ask some lighter questions to lift the mood at the end of each interview…so officially introducing….SHALLOW QUESTIONS! Ridiculous but exactly what we needed to laugh together after digging deep into the hard stuff.

Thank you for reading about Kisha and giving her a voice. You insist her story matters just by reading it. You are a big part of what is going to change people’s lives… THANK YOU for showing up for Homeless Looks Like.

Warmly, Amanda, Amanda + Mike

PLEASE LIKE US ON INSTAGRAM & FACEBOOK!

 

Shallow question answers from Kisha HERE:

What George’s Story Looks Like | Interview

Could you ever have guessed my first interview would be my own dad? Meet George (aka Gdog to my girls).

As I sit here typing at 5 in the morning, it’s still pitch black outside…I’m instantly connected to the days when I would see my dad getting up even earlier to start his days. Make sure everything and everyone was squared away…that everything was getting done, he was ready for work, we were all getting to school as we needed to, etc. Loved his jobs, good at his jobs, always on top of house things like laundry and dishes and all of the things. Always moving and on the go and working hard. 

Someone who works that much, and that often, and that hard… how do they end up homeless?

I’m not asking but insisting that you break myth number one now – that the homeless just “need to get a job”. There’s always more to a story. You really never know until you ask.

 

There are different interview formats we conduct and this is for those who have transitioned OUT of homelessness. My dad has been out for a little while now and with the help of a mission (which he doesn’t want me to give credit to because he didn’t like them, lol, he said they were religiously extreme and in some cases I have to agree but I’m still going to mention that because it’s necessary) but he works part time and is doing great living in Norfolk, Va. Finding fresh glass versus sea glass, but nonetheless, HAHA.

INTERVIEW:

Name/nicknames – George – Little Dicky (and then I showed him the Chris Brown and Lil Dicky video and he actually knew who that was hahahahaha)

Born & raised – Hornell, NY, raised in Norfolk, San Diego, Kansas, Hawaii, Hampton Roads (father was in the Navy) then Glen Allen

Favorite job – Sales (pretty good and pretty proud of himself for those sales skills)

What is something you would want people to know about you? I tried to be a better person, a better father, a better employee, a better human being

Was there a specific event or combination of events that led to you finding yourself homeless? Employment, divorce, health issues
(*Article about homelessness and divorce HERE

How did you begin to transition out of homelessness? Social security income retirement, buy a vehicle and then part time work
*Dad mentioned how important the vehicle was. We almost think of getting the job first as being the most important but how can you get to a job without a vehicle, and how you can afford a vehicle without a job? TOUGH.

What are you doing now – living arrangements and work? Apartment, part time, social security

What’s the hardest part about being homeless physically? Poor quality of life feeling bad physically

What’s the hardest part about being homeless emotionally? Hopelessness

What is the best thing that’s happened to you recently? Hanging out with the girls (the mermaid mafia), with my children – impressed by Amanda (okay I lied. I added that part about him being impressed by me. But let’s leave it there:))

Did you ever think you would end up homeless? I used to think it all the time, and fear it all the time

What advice do you have for someone who wants to help or how to approach someone who is homeless? Do not EVER give them money. Ever. Get them the help and things that they need but it’s like feeding a seagull. Do not give them any money. Point them in the direction of a shelter. But do not give them any money.

^That response is very authentically my dad, LOL. Oh George.

I’m SO proud of my Dad for transitioning out how he has but I can completely understand how he ended up where he did. I was pregnant with Ellie when all of this started and I’ve watched him pick the pieces back up and we are so proud of him 🙂 The girls LOVE their Gdog!!!

xoxo, Amanda Hedgepeth 
Follow along on Instagram!
Facebook, too! 
Sign up for our NEWSLETTER here to stay in the loop with STORIES & INSPIRATION on how to help! 
And we’re on Pinterest, too 🙂

This is me literally waiting to hug you and hear your story. Thank you for being BRAVE!

Immediate Goal: IT COSTS $0 FOR THIS PART

GUYS! We are OVERJOYED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In a little more than ONE day, one day…ONE…we pulled off picking up over 1000 followers on our Instagram page for Homeless Looks Like on my birthday, launch day! THANK YOU! Thank you SO dearly for that! And for the Facebook likes. And the newsletter signups. And the messages and the love…THANK YOU!

I wanted to drop by here today to explain our IMMEDIATE GOALS because we are having so many people ask about donating right now but I’m SUPER by the book and I just can’t accept anything until we are all the way set up and official. I’m a weenie, I know. But I KNOW the holding off until we are fully set up as an organization in all the right places is the right thing to do AND will be worth it!

RIGHT NOW: We need stories. We need FACES. I PROMISE that the biggest power in making change is to pair an IMAGE (and maybe some Instagram video) with a story. Nothing will make a bigger impact! Think about what goes viral…is it just a written story most of the time? Sometimes, perhaps, but usually an image or video is paired with the story. That combination holds the power to create CHANGE and incite COMPASSION … this is where the connections are made between two seemingly different people, this is where we find out our similarities.

We need stories from:
Those who are currently homeless
Those transitioning out
Those who have fully transitioned out
Those who work in churches that aid the homeless
Those who work do homeless mission work
Those who work in shelters
Those who run non-profits
Those who volunteer for the homeless

We are willing to travel to the DC area, Richmond, Hampton Roads and in NC within 2 hours of the Outer Banks once a month to conduct interviews.

IF YOU HAVE SOMEONE FOR US – EMAIL US!!!! >>> Homelesslookslike@gmail.com

Our first story goes live on Monday. And guess what? Many of you may know this person. If you don’t, you’ll still be shocked about who it is. Trust me, you’ll want to “tune in” and check out the blog on Monday, September 24.

Also – SO EXCITING, next week I travel to Richmond to meet with an incredible non-profit that is doing such good work and transforming lives! What a joy, I’ll keep everyone updated and come back with some stories for you! 🙂

EMAIL ADDRESS: HOMELESSLOOKSLIKE@GMAIL.COM 

xoxo, Amanda Hedgepeth 
Follow along on Instagram!
Facebook, too! 
Sign up for our NEWSLETTER here to stay in the loop with STORIES & INSPIRATION on how to help! 
And we’re on Pinterest, too 🙂

This is me literally waiting to hug you and hear your story. Thank you for being BRAVE!