James was born in 1957 in Charleston South Carolina. He has five sisters
and four brothers. After September eleventh both of his parents died of
cancer within six months. This aggravated his depression. He was suffering
from chronic depression and was put on Prozac, which he rejected, and
another anti-depressant after that. He did not take the medication. His
depression led to marital problems and he lost security clearance at work.
He came to Washington DC to stay with a cousin and look for work in the
private sector. He wanted to get away from defense work.
His cousin's house was foreclosed on just as James arrived. His cousin
moved in with a friend and James had no place to go. He went back to Union
Station with all his luggage. He slept there for two weeks. He would go
back and forth between there and the greyhound station until security
at each station made him move.
He saw people sleeping in Franklin Park and he decided to try sleeping
on a bench. A week later the temperature dropped. People in vans came
by and offered to take him to a shelter, but he did not go because of
stories he had heard about shelters. He was awakened by a biting cold
wind at three in the morning and took shelter inside the doorway of a
building. He was awakened for a second time when a rat ran across his
face. At this point he knew he had to find a better place to stay.
He checked into the holiday inn for the night then he went to the Central
Union Mission. There he got a warm bed, breakfast, a shower and a place
to store his belongings. He was able to start searching for a job. He
got a job through a temp agency working in Rockville, MD. He tried to
get a job repairing circuit boards for the government but could not get
security clearance. He went on unemployment and continued to look for
a job. The National Coalition for the Homeless came by recruiting Street
Sense Vendors. He became a vendor and excelled. He started recruiting
and joined the speaker's bureau.
He worked on the Bring America Home Act collecting signatures. He's been
on the Jim Lehr News Hour and in the New York Times. He trains vendors
two days a week and recruits them. He got his security clearance back
last October and is going to work in Taiwan when negotiations between
the Chinese and Taiwanese finish. He is able to pay for a room and pay
child support with his street sense wages. He enjoys speaking and informing
the public about homelessness.
The lack of affordable housing and a universal living wage are the main
causes of homelessness. Good shelters have a courteous staff, and are
clean. Church missions tend to have better food and be better run. In
five years he would like to be in partnership with his brother in Baltimore.
If he were President he would appropriate more money for creating affordable
housing other than section 8 for those who work minimum wage jobs.
He appreciates the support at High Schools and Colleges where he has
spoken and hopes he has been an inspiration.