What Leanna’s Story Looks Like | Interview


Name: Leanna
Nicknames? “You can call me Lea!”

Leanna was born and raised in Portsmouth but also lived in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, the Eastern Shore and Tappahannock.

Leanna is off-and-on when it comes to the relationship with her mom, and she occasionally keeps contact with her brother, too… who she’s 14 years younger than.

What was your favorite subject in school? “I was a little wild child, so…science was my favorite but I also liked gym and health.”

Was there a teacher that stood out to you in school? “Yes, but she wasn’t my teacher. Her name was Miss Barnes, she was a Kindergarten teacher and I was in 4th or 5th grade and I used to go to her classroom every day.”

Least favorite job you ever worked: A call center. “I went to sleep in orientation” It was FAR too boring for her. (I can see that because Leanna is SO MUCH FUN!)

Leanna’s favorite job was the bakery at Kroger… she loved talking to the elderly customers there and starting conversations with them. Sometimes they would want to just keep her there and go on and on 🙂

There’s a warmth to Leanna that is apparent right when you meet her. I can literally picture these customers coming up to her and doing this.

We asked Leanna what job would she love to have right now if she can have any job and she mentioned that she wants to go to school for phlebotomy (WHICH I HAD TO GOOGLE TO SPELL CHECK FYI LOL) – drawing blood. I told her she was a bad ass and I cringed with a smile, hahaha!

She wants to be in the medical field.

What is something you would want people to know about you if they didn’t know you at all? “I’m a very kind, funny, goofy, jittery person. I love to laugh, I love to have fun ALL the time.”

Was there a specific event that led you to becoming homeless or a series of events? I got pregnant. There were twins, and one of them didn’t make it… so my doctor put me on bedrest for two months, I ended up losing my job. It left me two months behind. Then four months. And before she knew it, she was too far past to catch up on life expenses. 

Do you friends and family know you’ve been going through this? My mother knows I’m going through this. She kind of helped this situation, not in a good way.

Things weren’t working out living with her mom, who lives in the country where things are far apart and there’s no public transportation.

She was hired at three places but had NO way to get there, and no one to watch her baby. 


It was hard being homeless (the first time) for her because it was during her pregnancy after her complications. The second time was after the baby was born and her older child, a son, kept asking… “when are we going home, mom?”

Leanna then exclaimed, “you gotta keep pushing” and I told her I loved her positive attitude about this subject. This subject can often feel hopeless, and like a dead-end…so when I hear someone with her motivated tone regarding the subject of homelessness, I always make sure to compliment it.

You can’t let it tear you down because once you’re down, you’re down. 

“Emotionally, it hurts. It’s very aggravating.”

What is the best thing that’s happened to you recently? A [romantic] connection with a friend from school that has started to develop after finding each other on social media again. He makes her feel like a kid again, like she has no worries.

Did you ever think you would end up homeless? Leanna told us “NEVER” and then went on to say she always assumed that the homeless put themselves in that predicament.

The question that follows is “what truth would you want people to know about homelessness” and she debunks her OWN previous assumptions with this answer: homelessness is not always something you put yourself in, you can’t control it sometimes. Homelessness is HARD to deal with, even if you don’t have kids. It can take on mental issues.

What advice would you give someone that’s homeless or wants to approach them? Just do it, if it’s in your heart to help them. But if you feel like they need the help, then do it. And talk to them – maybe they just need someone to talk to.

What do you want your life to look like a year from now? “Oh, just a year? A year from now, I want to be in school or have accomplished what I wanted to go to school for, something in the medical field, and I don’t even want much, I just want a house, and a car…it doesn’t even have to be a house, just an apartment.”

KEEP READING BELOW to see what YOU have in common with Leanna!!!:)


THANK YOU for showing up for Homeless Looks Like.

If you want help support the H.E.R. Shelter – click HERE 🙂

Warmly, Amanda, Amanda, Mike + Joe


HLL Shallow Leanna




What Lynette’s Story Looks Like | Interview

WARNING: This interview contains mentions of things that may be disturbing or triggering for some including sexual violence and suicide.

This interview was hard. But it was a gift. I feel so honored that Lynette felt she could confide in us and get it all off of her chest. If I need to sit and cry while transcribing because of how emotional it is…that is the LEAST I can do and it’s worth it to tell her brave story. Lynette suffers from PTSD (understandably, and you’ll read why) and was the primary caretaker for a family member with a terminal diagnosis. Lynette put others first and ended up homeless. I deeply hope this will awaken the hearts of so many who things it’s always a choice and see some instances of homelessness for what they are, like Lynette mentions: a bad thing happening to a good person.



Name: Lynette
Born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia. 
Lived in Fort Bragg for a while while married to military husband, but moved back in 1999.

Are you close with your family? Yes.
Are they all local? Yes.

In school what was your favorite subject: Spanish

Then we laughed at her next comment…
I can’t speak a lick of it but I had a good teacher and she was also a cheerleader coach.”

Mrs. Lee was her favorite teacher. “She was just fun, and we had a lot of poor children so she would bring stuff in. Like a thrift shop. She used to cook and bring food in every day. You could run to her for anything. She would also advocate on student’s a behalf when they were in trouble.”

Any jobs you’ve had that you didn’t like? I never got a job I didn’t like.

She loved her most recent job at the Naval Hospital.

What would you say your best job skills are? That job. I was in environmental services in NICU, Labor and Delivery and ER.

“You see some interesting stuff” – I loved it she said repeatedly.

What you would want people who don’t know you to know about you?

I’m a good mother.
I’m a good friend.
A good sister.
I’m a people person.
I am a good person.

“Bad things happen to good people.” Lynette mentioned.

Was there a specific event that led to your homelessness or a series of events? “Yes, oh God.”

We immediately could tell we needed to bring her a pack of tissues. The mood shifted instantly to heavy. It felt like a dam that couldn’t take the pressure anymore and was just waiting to break open. We held on tight and braced ourselves for what was to come. That’s what we’re here for. 

In February, Lynette was diagnosed with PTSD. She lost her job because of this. They tried to help her out and give her short-term disability.

She was given medication..but it wasn’t right for her. It wasn’t helping, and it actually caused her to feel MORE emotional. Nightmares also occurred.

Lynette had a bad upbringing, and then married bad people.

Then Lynette let it all out.

“First, my sister died of cancer at 41.” Lynette was her sister’s caretaker. She had to watch her until the end.

Everything truly started going downhill from there.

“I just never got it together” Lynette said.

I had five kids, she [her sister] left two kids behind and I just never got it together after she died. She suffered terribly. I washed her up the last day. Til the end she told me what she wanted…she was exhausted, she was being beat down. She was ready.

Lynette also mentions other things that contributed to her PTSD.

When she was young, she was molested. Lynette’s molester CONTINUED to contact her throughout the years. He kept bothering her online and on social media.

She was put into the mental ward because of her severe nightmares (due to PTSD) and she also had an ex-husband that kept breaking into her home.

You guys – these are just direct violations of body, space and emotional health. NO ONE ASKS FOR THIS OR DESERVES THIS. This is not someone who is homeless on their own accord. I hope you can continue to see the pattern here with us that homelessness can happen to good people just trying to get through life and trauma. 

After her last hospitalization she financially lost everything. She lost her home. She ended up staying with her sister. Her older kids ruined that opportunity with her because of their perpetual arguing.

Then, Lynette moves to her mom’s house.

They judged Lynette’s hospitalizations as a sign of weakness and she said “they were ON me and horrible to me, I had to leave.”

I told her how BRAVE SHE IS.

She was suicidal at this point. The only thing keeping her from committing suicide was knowing her youngest kids would have to find her that way.

Her voice was breaking a lot at this point.

She mentioned her two daughters were there at the shelter with her. She said “they don’t care that they’re here, as long as they got me”. She is very close with these two young daughters.

Her relationship with her other children is troubled. It breaks her heart.

She called the HER Shelter and told them that if she doesn’t come in soon, she doesn’t think she’ll make it.

They came to the shelter with NOTHING.

I am so grateful to the HER Shelter for taking her and her girls in.

Her daughters have been so good and not complained ONE time. They are such good girls.

“That’s the only thing that keeps me hanging on…but everything is gone.”

Regarding the HER Shelter, Lynette said: “Everyone in here is SO nice and they make it easy on you.”

“Everything was slipping away.
Everything was leaving so quickly.
My job, my finances, my two old kids acting up.
Then I lost my home.
Everything was CRASHING DOWN.”

We asked Lynette what the hardest part was about being homeless physically and she replied: The elements, it was FREEZING. It was winter. She slept in a car and it was so cold.

She reiterates that if it weren’t for her two young daughters, she wouldn’t be here. She said when she is feeling REALLY low, her daughters know and they come right to her.

Although their room at the shelter has a bunk bed and single bed, her daughters will get in her bed with her.

I can’t even deal. I am crying so much by this part of the interview because I can picture this. Having little girls that care so much for her and love her despite mental illness and know she’s doing her best – what a GIFT. Lynette deserves that gift.


Lynette’s rent was $1000 and she couldn’t make it happen anymore. $1000 for a single mom? It’s too much. I can’t believe how much the cost of living is in lower income areas STILL. This is something I research and Mike and I actually discovered that if our family depended on his salary alone, we would be JUST BARELY above the poverty line. How’s that for perspective?

We asked, “What’s the best thing that’s happened to you recently?” and Lynette replied: “I guess just being here and having a room over my head. Everyone that lives here, we are like a family. We all get along, we look out for each other. My kids love it here…they love the babies and the other kids.”

“This is the most stress free I’ve been in about a year.”

Did you ever think you would end up homeless? “Yeah, I knew it was coming.”

She knew it was coming after the hospitalization and job losses.

Every month she was losing something.

No insurance. No job. No disability.

Everything started leaving. She doesn’t have anything now.

What truth would you want people to know about homelessness? People always think you choose to be that way, NOBODY chooses to be this way. Nobody. It’s a hard life and you feel ashamed that you have come to that, especially when you have children.

If someone wanted to help someone who is homeless – what advice would you give them? A place to stay.

She then goes on to say there are no programs for mentally ill people with children to aid them. She wishes there were.

Lynette makes an EXCELLENT point when she mentions how serious of a problem mental illness is in our world. “It’s an epidemic”

“Depression and mental illness is on the rise.”

Lynette is passionate about wishing there was a program that helped her situation because in her heart, she knows it’s an extremely common problem. She states they have plenty of programs for post-incarceration and post-addiction – but nothing for mental illness. Schooling, funding, halfway house, etc. Nothing like the other programs offer.

Thankfully Lynette has Medicaid that is covering her medications for her PTSD.

What do you want your life to look like a year from now? “MONTHS from now, I wanna be in my own house… with my children, with some kind of financial situation that I don’t have to worry about.”


“I’m glad to get it out” she said after the interview.

She used to make plans for her death. Her final wishes. Now she sees her daughters as her main purpose to keep going on.

We loved meeting Lynette. She was wearing colorful clothes and just made us so happy to be around. She is a doll and I’m SO thankful despite her hardships, she is still on this Earth with us pushing through and seeing her purpose. Read more below for her shallow questions answers and see what you have in common with Lynette! XOXO

THANK YOU for showing up for Homeless Looks Like. If you want help support the H.E.R. Shelter – click HERE 🙂 

Warmly, Amanda, Amanda, Mike + Joe


HLL Shallow Lynette


What Chandra’s Story Looks Like | Interview


When we headed to Portsmouth, Virginia and met with the incredible staff of the H.E.R. Shelter – we were not prepared for how heartwarming this experience was going to be.

Many of you have heard of the H.E.R. shelter as a haven for domestic abuse victims, and they have recently renovated and reopened a shelter to also serve those experiencing homelessness! This is AMAZING because sometimes it’s just life circumstances that lead people to needed a temporary roof over their heads and H.E.R. is working so incredibly hard to provide just that. Visit *THIS BLOG POST* to find out what H.E.R. shelter needs right now! I am willing to bet there is SOME way you can help! From donating your skills/services to food to items to monetary donations, there are so many ways to give back.

The first interview we had with was Chandra, a mom of three who has a SUPER healthy and uplifting attitude when it comes to the adversity she’s been handled. She is very clear about knowing that hard times are just a pit stop you have to visit to get where you’re going and we LOVED that about her!

Name: Chandra
Nickname(s): Lil Mama (she is the second oldest of 11 children, which totally makes sense she would be lil mama:))
Born & raised in Portsmouth, Virginia.

When we asked about her family life, Chandra said it was great. She is actually very close with her family! She loves having a bigger family.

Favorite subject in school? Math and writing.

Favorite teacher that stood out to you? Mrs. D. Jenkins and Mrs. Ripley.

She was an honor roll student and one of her teachers couldn’t understand why she couldn’t go on field trips…and when she figured out that it was because Chandra wasn’t able to pay for them… her teacher started to pay for those so she could go on them.

This is SUPER heartwarming when it comes to how far a teacher will go sometimes… and I have a lot of teacher friends who have told me how difficult it is emotionally to see students in need so often: Mrs. Ripley would wash her and her siblings clothes for her. She would ask Chandra to bring a backpack full of their clothes so she could take care of her in that way. Amazing.


First job – NEWSPAPER delivery.

Least favorite job…working in the kitchen. Something she LOVED to do but hated the tedious nature of it. She found out she was really good at it while serving time in jail and working in the kitchen there.

If you could have any job what would it be? Promoting and marketing.

This next question highlights Chandra’s confidence and self-awareness well. I LOVED HER ANSWER:

What is something you would want people to know about you? Whatever they feel. I’m not big on “you should know this about me” because I am who I am and I trust people to be who they are and I just try to be a good person across the board.

What is one big event that led you to become homeless or a combination of events that led you to homelessness? A combination of events. After serving time, I went to stay with family and ended up having to take on taking care of my niece.

From there – things got harder.

She worked at a fast food place for a while, was promoted to manager and then stopped working when she had a miscarriage. By the time she got her next job in telemarketing/customer service – she was so behind on bills and ended up staying with her grandmother. She ended up pregnant with her son and couldn’t work after five months because of severe pain associated with pregnancy.

With her criminal record, getting a job is difficult.

The jobs that ARE available are very difficult schedule wise taking care of her two kids and her brother’s son.

Something that was emotional for Chandra was that her niece didn’t want anyone see her coming out of the shelter and didn’t want people to know she was there. She felt bad about that.

Chandra says “I’m an adult and don’t care what others think about that, I know you have to make a pit stop to get where you’re going sometimes.”

Faced with challenges in providing the income she needs to survive and support her children, our entrepreneurial friend Chandra started her OWN business – housecleaning!!! She knows this is the best way for her to make the amount of money she needs to make ends meet.

Did you ever think you would end up homeless? No. To me it’s not the end of the world, just a pit stop.

I told her she’s got a great healthy vision about moving forward and that it’s so impressive.


She had one hopeless moment in prison – 18 years old – and then she realized that no one is going to care about her life the way she can so she wanted better, and decided to do better.

What truth would you want people to know about homelessness? Anyone can find themselves there, and if you DO find yourself there – that’s not IT. It’s just a stepping stone. Just a pit stop.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to approach a homeless person? JUST DO IT. Just talk to them. Make sure it’s someone who wants to help themselves. Not someone who is just okay with it and doesn’t want to change.

What do you want your life to look like from a year from now? My life is going to look totally different because I’m taking all the steps I need to get there!

WE ARE SO PROUD OF CHANDRA! We absolutely loved her interview. Her little boy was the SWEETEST thing, and I took a couple of breaks to go rinse off the pacifiers because he kept joyfully throwing them on the ground 🙂 We always ask a round of shallow questions – they are listed below! What do YOU have in common with Chandra? 🙂

THANK YOU for showing up for Homeless Looks Like. If you want help support the H.E.R. Shelter – click HERE 🙂 

Warmly, Amanda, Amanda, Mike + Joe


HLL Shallow ChandraHER-shelter-december-2019-11

The H.E.R. SHELTER is doing GOOD WORK! | Partners

A couple of months ago, I hopped on my video software and created a video to send to a shelter telling them who I am and asking if they would allow us to help them. Our nonprofit Homeless Looks Like is actually created to fundraise for other nonprofits who help the homeless and we are working toward a structure of focusing on one nonprofit per quarter to HELP!

When I asked – SO MANY PEOPLE SAID H.E.R. Shelter – and what’s ironic is that they just recently re-opened a shelter for the homeless versus what they are notoriously known for which was domestic violence and abuse survivors. In Portsmouth, Virginia in December – we walked into a sweet and cozy shelter created to help the homeless get back on their feet and back on their own. A place to sleep, take care of themselves and eat. A safe place.

There is a lot more to what this environment is offering than just shelter. Hope and motivation are key factors in the mood that fills the air in this space. The room we did interviews in, a cool and coastal space with calming music, blue walls and comfortable seats is called the Empowerment Room and we loved that! We felt VERY welcome and we felt called to be there. It was incredible.

Here are a couple of important links below and also a LIST of EXACTLY what they need! Do you know anyone who could help with this? They would immensely appreciate!!!!

If anyone desires to donate time/treasure:
They can call Chris directly 252-202-4858 OR email: chris@hershelter.com ; office 757-392-2167

Any monetary donations: H.E.R. Shelter Inc

Anyone desiring to come out and give a space a “face-lift”(Remodel) or Amazon something OR just donate clothing items, etc: 1900 Columbus Ave Portsmouth, Va 23704
They will happily provide a Donation Receipt that can be used during tax time as a charitable donation.

Donate link here: http://hershelter.com/donate/donate
Contact link here:
Home page: http://hershelter.com/home 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HERShelter

Major Needs:
 Kitchen Cabinet Hardware Replaced
 Kitchen Remodel (Paint kitchen, Flooring, Blinds)
 Refrigerators – Replace (2 Each)
 Living Room Remodel – Sofa, Love Seat, Blinds, Lighting lamp(s), Flooring, functional
computer desk that complements the space)
 Minor Window Repairs (all 9 rooms)
 Blinds (all 9 rooms)
 Gaps in Window / Ceiling (allows air and insect intrusion) All 9 rooms
 Functional Room Furniture (Chest-of-Drawers / 2-Drawer Armor w/ 2-Drawers) – 9
Rooms total
 Shelving Installed – (All Storage Closets, 5)
 Lighting throughout the building needs to be Serviced (Check the fuse / balance) some
bulbs will not light up – Light unit could be bad?? – Electrical /Lighting Technician
 Security Cameras – 8 additional cameras needed to close-loop to “non-covered” vital

The items listed below are used daily, weekly, and monthly and often have a high rate of

Cleaning supplies:
 Paper items (Paper Towels, Toilet Tissue)
 Garbage bags, large (55 gal & 35 gal )
 Floor cleaner (Fabuloso)
 Dusters
 3 Push Brooms
 Laundry detergent – PODS
 Bounce Dryer Sheets
 Clorox Wipes (4 pack)
 Dish Detergent
 Air Freshener
 Bleach
 Cleaning pads
 Bathroom and disinfectant cleaner
 Toilet bowl cleaner

RESTORE Homeless Shelter Needs:
(1900 Columbus Ave. Portsmouth, Va. 23702)

Personal hygiene
 Hand sanitizers
 Toothpaste and toothbrushes (adult and child)
 Men and Women deodorant and lotion
 Body Wash (for men and women)
 Hand soaps and bar soaps
 Shaving gel and razors
 Feminine sanitary supplies
 Underwear (for men and women) – New please..
 Towels and washcloths
 Bus Passes (HRT)
 Baby Pampers and wipes
 Socks (men and women) – New please
 Zip-lock bags (Quart and Gallon size)

List of things we need to purchase before clients can move in
• Bed Bug Covers – (50 Each)
• Sheets (Twin size) 18 Set
• Pillow cases – 36 Each
• Pillows – 10 Each
• Plates – 5 Set
• Silverware (Forks, Spoons, butter knives) – 4 Set

THANK YOU FOR HELPING OUR FRIENDS! Thank you for making a difference. Thank you for insisting that their stories matter 🙂

THANK YOU for showing up for Homeless Looks Like.

Warmly, Amanda, Amanda, Mike + Joe





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!




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


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



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!!!!!!!!! 🙂


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