Have you ever been approached by a homeless panhandler?  I would normally spare a dollar, or whatever little change was dangling in my pockets, when those moments took place.  I’ve wondered how these individuals found themselves in such a predicament, where they were homeless, jobless, and broke.  The thought never crossed my mind that some day I would be the individual begging for change and searching for a place to sleep deep into the night.  I mean, come on, I had a full time corporate job, which I had been working for over 7 years, family and friends that I felt would hold me down, a few dollars saved in my bank account, an upcoming consulting business, and not to mention my income tax refund that was do every year.  So how could a single bachelor go from traveling from Mississippi, New York, and back to Atlanta, on business meetings, lose everything overnight?  The explanation is a very difficult one to navigate through, but I will try to illuminate to the best of my abilities.  I remember the turning point as if it took place yesterday.  One of my former high school classmates proceeded to drop me home from the transit station after a disappointing meeting in New York City with one of my music industry comrades.  The negative energy from that day was in overflow.  Back at the office the following morning, the managers at my corporate job were keeping everyone posted on the possibilities of our jobs being sent to India.  Discussions of a possible severance packages were outlined, while we were constantly thanked by management for our continuous hard work.  In a way, I wanted my job to be sent overseas so I could have an excuse to go all out with my business.  1up Entertainment was once a record label, in transition of becoming an organization, which specialized in nonprofit consulting.  The transition would take hard work, but this was the break I would need.  So like I always did, I took time to evaluate the pro’s and con’s of my decision to go full time into developing 1up Entertainment into its new direction.  Let’s see, a few thousand dollars from my tax return, constant flow of dollars surging in from the severance package for the first few months, maybe some unemployment if need be, and I managed to save a few dollars from the job.  Now would then cut my expenses by sharing the rent and living expenses with a relative while living up north or out west.  In both cases, I could collaborate my services and job experience with this relative to help them with their business and income stream.  Did I mention I continued to apply for jobs weekly, leaving a safety net to continue in the same path of corporate security?  So see, I was prepared for the worst to come, so I thought. 

After feeling heavy pressure from management at my corporate job to walk away, I prepared my two-week notice once I was mentally prepared to head up north to gamble with the family business collaboration.  I figured, worse case, I would easily land a Job at Walmart or Target if need be.  Plus, I had several thousands of dollars to survive on, which would give me time to find some sort of work, if the business revenue came in too slow.  After sending in my two-week notice, I decided I was not yet ready to leave, so I stayed at the job for another month.  After a month, I decided I was finally ready to head up north, but I had forgotten to rewrite my two-week notice.  I had left the job, and a week later, I received calls from individuals asking about my where bouts.  My frame of mind was, I had already turned in a two-week notice, but just hung around two more weeks before leaving.  My boss saw it as me leaving without giving the company a two-week notice. Knowing it would be a more expensive move, renting a truck to haul all my personal belongings up north, I sold a few of my material belongings, but left most behind, like my 60” HD television and my bed and dressers. Relationships with so called friends and family were currently strained, so I had no one to wish me the best as I packed my little Nissan to the max, and headed on my 15 hour journey to New England.  Hope never went away that things would turn out for the best, but there was no doubt in my mind that my safety net was no longer looming from corporate headquarters.  Not to mention I could never be rehired if I had changed my mind, due to the little fiasco between my boss and myself.  By the way, the job was never sent to India.  To cut the chase, nothing up north worked, and the tension between my relative and I was OC … out of control.  Still having a few thousands in my account, I decided to move back to Atlanta, this time only taking half of by belongings, which I had recently taken up north.  No job, and no place to really stay.  Sure, I had a few people I knew, but it was obvious none of them really wanted me in their home, being that I didn't have a job.  Did I mention that I do not smoke or drink alcohol?  Anyway, I religiously found myself in the local library searching for work and rebuilding a marketing and promoting concept for my business.  I also took the time to read as many books as I could to educate myself on issues and trades, which I had limited knowledge of.  It kept me off the streets and in a productive and more peaceful frame of mind. After one of my classmates informed me that he would not be able to allow me to spend the night in his home the following day, I had finally come to the realization that I was now homeless. I had no place to sleep, other than in my car, and nobody could care less.  Sleeping in my car went from one day to two days, and two days to two weeks.  For some reason I found comfort in riding around the city in my car when I wasn’t in the library, so my daily routine became an expensive habit.  The usual routine consisted of, waking up at 5 am in the morning, shaving, taking a wash up, and brushing my teeth in the local park restroom.  I would then drive around a little as I waited for the local library to open.  Let me guess, some of you are asking, where were your family and friends?  All I can say is that, they were aware of the situation.  Some wished me good luck, while others were nowhere to be found.   One relative offered a room in the east coast but I still had hope that I would find work sooner, then later.  I mean, a strong man like myself would surely be able to stock shelves at a grocery store.  I applied for work and no responses came my way.  An occasional hotel stint kept me fresh, but weeks turned to months, and at some point, I eventually ran out of money.  I managed to sell a few of my company shirts I had stashed away, but that was gas money, meaning it did not last long.  Calls and emails went out to family and friends, while panhandling was my next strategic move to gather up money for gas.  I found a place that issued food once every two weeks, and I refused to live in a shelter, afraid that all of my personal belongings would be stolen from my car.  I can recall the individuals I ran into who confronted me with distrust, disgust, and mockery.  Being looked down upon from someone you are begging for money is a humiliating but humbling feeling.  As for the process, my objective was to get 10 dollars a day.  I issued seven dollars for gas and three dollars for food if needed.  During that time, my body was conditioned to eating one meal a day.  The weight lost did not bother me at all.                                                                                               

Despite the struggles, good luck still happen to find it's way to me during this time. Two relatives, and one former Co-worker, eventually opened their doors, allowing for a little success with my newly vamped business.  I was able to work with a seasoned professional, creating “Generation Y”, a leadership training workshop, leading students into role-play and critical thinking.  We allowed students to take the position of hypothetically developing a nonprofit organization, and sharing what benefits the organization would have in their community.  During this time, I managed to contact and work with several non profit organizations, creating sponsorship proposals, speaking with youths concerning the importance of critical thinking and social entrepreneurship, created several marketing campaigns (commercial treatments), and managed to establish, my one man show, (1up Entertainment) company’s brand.  I may have informed a few of my clients that I was homeless, but I was never taken seriously.  For a homeless guy, I had managed to keep myself fresh for majority of the stint.  I would like to thank all the individuals who had my back, and who continue to be supportive of me during my quest.  My entire perspective on homelessness has changed due to my experience.  No longer having the safety net of the weekly corporate checks, health benefits, and paid vacations, I also have a deeper appreciation for the hard work independent business owners put in to survive daily.  During the last few months, I’ve been blessed to have a few people in my corner, and I hope to be able to repay them by working hard, and with my dedication to the promotion of social entrepreneurship and critical thinking.  The thought of me panhandling is still fresh in my mind, and I would like to avoid that from happening again.