Is the American dream still alive? Can a person lift himself up by the bootstrap out of homelessness and earn a living - nay, even prosper - in this country?
Adam Shepard put it to the test:
Alone on a dark gritty street, Adam Shepard searched for a homeless shelter. He had a gym bag, $25, and little else. A former college athlete with a bachelor's degree, Mr. Shepard had left a comfortable life with supportive parents in Raleigh, N.C. Now he was an outsider on the wrong side of the tracks in Charleston, S.C.
But Shepard's descent into poverty in the summer of 2006 was no accident. Shortly after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., he intentionally left his parents' home to test the vivacity of the American Dream. His goal: to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year.
To make his quest even more challenging, he decided not to use any of his previous contacts or mention his education.
During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company.
Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.