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.
Link (Photo: Nicole Hill) - via Locust & Honey
I am white and I was poor. Welfare poor. Dirty nasty house, with soggy laundry all over the floor and roaches. I lived in a terrible neighboorhood and got beat up alot. My parents were idiots. I and my sister were sexually abused and I have my own set of mental issues surrounding this. But I am overcoming them.
I am now 21 and life is good. You know why, because I work and I'm not lazy. I work fourty hours a week at safeway and am taking four classes at a community college. It was my first job and four years later, I still have it. Know why? Because I worked. Things are good. I have a beautiful woman, a puppy (which costed $500), I drink expensive beer every night and I,m going to school for free because of the pell grant.
That's right a 5,000 dollar check just to get me on the right track. Because I grew up poor. Because people in this country who are succesful want other's to be succesful. They don't want people dependent on welfare, they want people working against the odds and becoming success stories. I now pay taxes about 18 percent. I hope that money goes to people who are going to school and taking good care of their kids. Oh yeah and just because I am white does not mean that I am priviledged. Not by any means. Some companies are reluctant to turn down minorities for fear of backlash from the equal right's activists. I'm all for equal rights, but I'm not for feeling guilty about being white.--Dangit!
He had hope - no, that's not right - he had the certainty of an end date to his adventure. I would say poor people live without that certainty, without even the hope of somehow climing out of the abyss. There's the difference.
And as for being white and male - come on. There are plenty of white homeless males out there.