Question: Whereabouts are you planning to sleep tonight?
In a house? A home?
You might consider your surroundings simple, a modest abode.
Trust us, no matter how humble your home, the chances are you’ll be more comfortable than Chris Tibedo tonight.
For Chris Tibedo, home – such as it is – is a tent, somewhere, unspecified, in downtown Providence, RI, as he puts it, “Well-hidden, of course.”
This we know because Chris told us as much in a communiqué that, if we’re being honest, brought us to tears here in our studio.
You see, Chris is homeless.
You might have read about him here on our blog last week.
Then, we didn’t even have a full name for him, our knowledge encapsulated into an 87-second online film clip that touched our hearts and opened our eyes.
Now, seven days later, he has become a full-blown inspiration to us all here at OM HQ in Saunderstown.
Connection can do that.
It amazes us to think that, just hours after posting our heartfelt blog, it came to Chris’ attention: That’s Chris Tibedo, a homeless man, living in a tent, sleeping on the streets.
That he found it in himself to send us such a deep and meaningful message in response is nothing less than awe-inspiring.
“Thank-you for opening your eyes and caring,” he wrote, using the facilities at The Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, in Pawtucket, to make contact. “It feels like no-one cares – your blog shows that you do.”
You know, we’ve felt for a long time that our blog is rather great. It appears that even we’d underestimated its power.
“Awesome,” was Chris’ verdict. Well, about him, we feel much the same.
You see, being without a home does not mean being without hope.
Down and out? Not Chris. Not Chris Tibedo.
Feeling sorry for himself? Perhaps a little at times, but you attempt to sleep on a Providence pavement, see how it makes you feel.
Survival is the main objective on the streets, but Chris is doing more than that. Much more.
He’s helping people. He’s making a difference.
Right now, he’s working on a speech that he is due to deliver at Roger Williams University, in Bristol, RI, on October 17, a speech in which he’ll talk about himself and his homelessness, in an attempt to raise awareness of a growing problem.
It’s not his first time.
Playing an important role in RICH’s Speakers Bureau, Chris is accustomed to telling his tale – to spreading the word, to making connections.
“When you bring your story out there, it really hits home and you don’t feel alone,” he explained during another short RICH film that has come to our attention.
“When someone who is not (homeless) acknowledges you or acknowledges the story, or just the fact of homelessness, it’s invigorating because you get hope, you get a dream, you get energy to . . . just, someone is listening, someone is watching, someone is paying attention.”
Chris, we’re listening, we’re watching, we’re paying attention and we hope that in acknowledging you, in acknowledging your story, in acknowledging homelessness, we have invigorated you.
Chris, we hope we’ve given you hope, a dream.
Above all, we hope we’ve given you energy, because with energy, there is nothing you cannot do. For yourself. For your friends. For homeless people near and far.
There are lots of you out there in the cold. To that, our eyes have been opened.
In the last seven days we’ve learned that homeless numbers have sky-rocketed in recent times. Last month the number seeking beds at Rhode Island’s largest shelter doubled from the figures recorded in August 2010. One night, 41 people had to sleep on the floor.
Last year, a further 26,000 Rhode Island residents fell into poverty, bringing the total number here to 142,000. Our state has the highest poverty rate in New England. The slope is slippery.
In such times, we need more organizations like RICH.
In such times, we need more people like Chris Tibedo.
In such times, we need to look at ourselves, examine our actions, consider our attitudes.
People do care, Chris, although we understand why, during the long, cold nights under canvas, it might feel as though no-one does.
Here in our studio, we’re thinking hard about what we can do to make a difference.
We hope we’re not alone.
Chris, please keep in contact and please stay safe.
For now, our best wishes.
We are all connected.