A picture of a starry sky with tree branches in the foreground.

Jens Schott Knudsen

I did… I do… and I will continue… to exist.

I wasn’t born on the streets. But I was born. I wasn’t raised poorly, nor perfectly. But I was raised. And I haven’t lived a poorly managed life, nor a perfectly managed life. But I do live.

My story might come as a surprise to many, but it shouldn’t. Anything can happen to anyone…even you. Do not take your blessings for granted. It didn’t take much for me to end up on the streets, homeless. There was no long, drawn-out process. I never spent time in jail. I did struggle with an opiate addiction for several years, but I was already three years clean (and still am) when my life crashed down on me and I became homeless.

In fact, everything in my life finally seemed to be coming together. Less than a year ago, I was working at a music school, managing it in fact; I was leasing a brand new 2016 Scion TC; I was renting a beautiful apartment in Virginia that ran over $1600 a month; I had somebody to love, whom I had planned on spending forever with. We were planning on building a family together. I was the happiest I had ever been.

Than the world came crashing down on me. It is truly unbelievable how abruptly, how easily the tides of life can turn — and so drastically.

Did that blink of a life i just described remind you of yourself? Your past? Your present? Maybe plans for our future? Again…I emphasize…it is truly unbelievable how quick and easy the tides of life can turn on you. All it takes is one abrupt or unplanned turn of events to set the spiral in motion, and you too — anybody —could end up in my shoes: homeless.

No matter where we come from, where we hope to go, whatever path of life we’ve chosen to walk, whomever we are – we are all equals. We are all made of flesh, blood, emotions, desires, mistakes, imperfections…Stardust. And it is that connectedness we need to embrace. It seems with each passing day that our sense of community and brotherly (and sisterly) love is dwindling away. People have forgotten that no matter what we are triumphing with, or struggling with, we are all vulnerable to this thing called humanity.

So next time you are out and about, living your life, and you see somebody less fortunate out on the street, please take a second to think to yourself and reflect. It doesn’t take much to make us (the

homeless and less fortunate) happy. Even if you can’t buy a paper from us, or you can’t spare any change, or even if you simply don’t want to donate, please remember that we too are walking this path called humanity. All it takes is a response to our voice, a simple “hello,” a “how are you?,” even a “no, I can’t help you,” to make us feel like we exist, like we’ve been heard, that we are still connected. Because deep down, that’s all we want: to exist, to be a part of the community, to be human, to be made from stardust.

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.