On September 22, 2011, we sat down in our studio and began to compose a blog post. It was about homelessness and a short film clip that had come to our attention. The clip featured a man – at that stage, we didn’t know his name – explaining what it was like to live on the streets of Rhode Island.
‘We’re not the bag lady,’ he said. ‘We’re not the hobo. We’re not just a piece of trash on the side of the street. We’re not. We’re a human life’.
The following week, having somehow read our blog, the man in the film contacted us. His name, he told us, was Chris Tibedo and he was grateful.
Grateful that we’d highlighted his plight. Grateful that we’d helped him to get his message across. Grateful that we’d shown an interest in homelessness and the people in its grip. Grateful that we’d treated him with the dignity and the respect that is all too often hard to find on the streets.
Ever since then, we’ve kept a close eye on Chris. We were delighted when, in 2012, he managed to escape the streets, where he’d survived, in a tent, for three hard years. That didn’t mean that his troubles were behind him. Getting off the street is one thing. Staying off the street is quite another.
Chris still faced certain hardships, not least the stigma that is attached to having once been homeless. Finding meaningful employment proved troublesome. Old habits still posed certain threats.
For a time, we didn’t hear from Chris but we never stopped thinking about him and hoping that he’d managed to catch a break. In recent days, we received word. It came in a short message, Chris writing, ‘Update to my story: Housed now, almost two years. Job for just a month now (weekly paychecks!). Sober one year, 10 months and 25 days, with God in my life again. I have turned the page [and] I owe great thanks to this blog and to those who read and share it’.
Needless to say, this is great news and we couldn’t be happier. Chris, who once described his life to us as a ‘continuous struggle of living’, has indeed turned the page. He is an inspiration to us all – homed and homeless alike – and the perfect example that anything can be achieved, and that we should NEVER give up on people, regardless of their circumstances.
Chris reminds us that there are homeless people out there on the street right now. Winter is approaching and life is about to get a great deal harder for them. Some won’t make it. It’s something for us all to keep in our minds as the weather begins to worsen. Chris once said to us, ‘Look around you and help those around you. Please remember that money’s not all that homeless people need. Sometimes a simple smile or just saying hello is more than some homeless people receive. It’s human contact. It could be words, eye contact or a pat on the back but please, just give [something]. It’s the action and the intention that count. Remember, we are all human.’
This is something that, from time to time, we all need to be reminded of and we thank Chris for pointing this out. We also congratulate and applaud him for turning his life around, for proving that it’s right for us to put our faith in other people and for setting an example that demands to be followed. The picture above is one that we used to underline just how far Chris has come since September 2011 and we’re delighted that his cardboard sign – HOMELESS! JOBLESS! BROKE! – has long been discarded. THAT is trash. Homeless people are not.