Real Accounts on real experiences
No Place Like Home: A True Story
No Place Like Home extends beyond the rhetoric, statistics, politics, and constraints of social services to address poverty in America through social media. The blogs put into context one of our nation’s most troubling and prevalent issues through personal stories captured by certain media platforms and brings into focus the pain, hardship and hopelessness that millions face each day. One story at a time, blogs posted on No Place Like Home shatter the stereotypes of America’s homeless, force shifts in perception and deliver a call to action that is being answered by national brands, nonprofit organizations and everyday citizens now committed to opening their eyes and their hearts to those too often forgotten.
1. Lit Kurtz
Many residents of Ann Arbor know Lit as the queen of Groundcover anthologies and aspiring entrepreneur, but most do not know about her future aspirations and career.
Lit was one of the many who experienced the negative consequences from Detroit budget cuts and lay-offs in 2014. Although she was a teacher for over 10 years when she lost her job, she has been determined to not go back.
Lit has been in and out of hotel extended stays, using Groundcover News as her source of income. She is passionate and determined to solve the homelessness crisis in Ann Arbor, and is doing her best to raise awareness on homelessness.
Her new t-shirt company, Sidewalk Musings and Beyond, does just this. The name was created after Lit wanted to capture her experiences on the streets. She takes beautiful photos, digitizes them on a computer, and then puts the picture on a shirt. She hopes to have more shirts revolving around social justice and homelessness in the future.
Lit has written a large amount of articles for Groundcover News-- so many that she is now compiling all of them to write her own book, Out Here, which can be pre-ordered at this link.
Her website sheds light on her personal story, experiences, and thoughts on current events. In addition, she has a Youtube channel called "Lit's Talk" where she has several acts, one being a homeless teacher that criticizes various people and events.
Lit firmly believes that the community needs to empower the people, and not the agencies. She is working hard with Michigan Is My Home to bridge the gap between the student population and homeless individuals; this is being done through direct interaction and regular engagement.
Similar to everyone else, Lit has dreams and aspirations. Through her hard work, persistency, and dedication, we believe she will have a huge positive impact on the community.
“So while this is a wonderful paper, it can be considered much more than just a purchase – it is also an opportunity to engage and understand another person’s struggles.” -Lit
2. Kevin Spangler
It is not rare to find Kevin driving pedicabs downtown, wearing costumes and spreading positivity. His three-year-old pedicab business, Boober Tours, has taken off. He is an excellent example of why everyone deserves a second chance in life.
Kevin grew up in unfortunate circumstances, having to witness and cope with domestic abuse. He was also diagnosed with ADHD as a child, and had to constantly switch medications to try to find one that would minimize his side effects. Tired of dealing with his condition and the medication, he turned to hard nonprescription drugs.
Several DUIs, arrests, and jail sentences later, he had a major event in his life that forced him to seriously reconsider his path. He learned he was going to be a father to a baby boy, and took this opportunity to completely change his life.
While finishing his time in jail, Kevin started making plans for his pedicab business. He knew that he wanted to build the foundation on acceptance, recovery, and positivity.
Starting with one pedicab and providing free rides for pedistrians located across U of M's central campus, he began to save his money. He was eventually able to buy more pedicabs and warehouse space for Boober Tours.
Today, Kevin has over 14 pedicabs and aspirations to expand his company even more. He hires individuals in recovery from substance abuse and focuses his company on positivity and safety. He hopes that many people will take Boober Tours across campus instead of driving while intoxicated.
His future plans for expansion are not just local, but national. To keep up with these plans, he is making an app that is similar to Uber, but shows where the local pedicabs are.
Kevin is a terrific example that we are never set on a certain path, and our past does not define us. Each person has the power to change their life for the better or worse, and everyone deserves a second chance.
To learn more, check out this MLive Article!
"I started working as much as I could. I was not making any money but I was determined to be successful." -Kevin
3. Cindy Gere
Many residents of Ann Arbor know Cindy as "Kung Fu Panda" due to her mixed martial arts skills. However, many do not know the full meaning behind this name.
Cindy was adopted by a family in Ann Arbor, but left for a short period as a young adult to meet her birth family in Alaska. She stayed there longer than expected, as she fell into an abusive relationship with a man. Eventually, she was able to leave this relationship and return to Michigan. However, when she returned, she did not stay with the parents that raised her.
Instead, Cindy became friends with many homeless students and followed in their footsteps. She learned many skills from them and ways of the streets.
Cindy has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which makes it difficult for her to organize, remember, and work. However, this disability has not stopped her from receiving an income and supporting herself; she learned sales techniques from other vendors and now sells over 600 papers each month.
Cindy has become a very accomplished vendor, and she believes staying level-headed has helped with this. She frequently practices mixed martial arts, where she obtained the name "Kung Fu Panda." She also uses martial arts to contain her anger and to stay positive all of the time.
Cindy has aspirations of becoming an artist; she currently makes paintings of others' spirit animals. She spends time with someone for a given period of time, gauges their personality, and then draws their spirit animal in the way she sees best fit.
"Once a group of college students stood across from where I was selling and stared and laughed at me. It cut me to the core. They don't know my background or anything about me. Now I kill them with kindness or totally block them out." -Cindy
4. Alice Newell
Alice is an excellent example of how family deaths, medical diagnoses, and loss of governmental assistance can push a family into homelessness. After losing her mother, Alice and her family had to turn to social security to sustain her family of two daughters. In addition to this loss, her daughter was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes, around the same time that their food stamps were taken away. Not sure where to turn and how to supply her family with a well-balanced meal on a budget, she started to worry.
Money became even tighter as the school year rolled around, and Alice had to face new stresses as she came to the realization that her daughters could not focus in school due to malnutrition and lack off a stable shelter.
Like many others, Alice had an injury, which made finding a job extremely difficult. In addition, she could not drive. She relied heavily on religion and God to get her through these hard times, especially when herself and her other daughter were also diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
After an extended period of time of riding the bus to food banks and modifying their lifestyle and diet, Alice's food stamp case was reopened and she was able to receive food stamps once again. Alice is now working with a nutritionist to better feed her family on a budget, and has implemented exercise sessions with her daughters. Throughout it all, they showed the importance of sticking together and having perseverance.
"A family in need cannot afford to be overly selective with donated goods, and must rather receive them with gratitude."
Felicia is known for her compassion, persistence, and positivity. Felicia found Groundcover after returning to Michigan following her daughter's injury; her daughter was in Detroit visiting family members, and ran out of gas. While she was walking to a gas station, she was attacked and severely injured. Felicia came all of the way from Florida to stay and be with her daughter.
In order to make an income, Felicia found random jobs such as hair styling. She eventually came across Groundcover News, where she greatly enjoyed being able to sell to others and make them smile. Her optimism, dedication, and thoughtfulness are a result of the hard life she faced in the past.
As a child, Felicia had to constantly be aware and cautious, as her household faced the unfortunate circumstances of domestic abuse. When Felicia was still a young girl, her mother shot her father as he tried to enter their household. However, his lack of presence did not keep abuse away from Felicia; when she was in high school, she was attacked in Detroit.
Desperate to get out of Detroit, Felicia moved to California where she worked various jobs such as braiding hair, working as a landlord, and owning a dollar store. She eventually moved to Florida where she managed a gas station and market.
“Don’t look past the person. It costs nothing to give a smile. It is our job every day to give love, show love and receive love."
Pony is a good representation of someone who has worked hard his whole life, but has also experienced the negative consequences of not having an emotional support system. Pony was taken away from his mother when he was eight years old due to neglect; she had substance abuse issues. Pony was then taken to a boys' home, which he describes as an "institution" that did not have a strong sense of family or community.
By the time Pony was 20, he already served time in prison; he attributes his behavior to the behavior he learned from others at the boys' home. When he left prison 18 years later, he found temporary jobs working at Kroger and Holiday Inn. It has been difficult for him to find other jobs because he does not have his birth certificate in possession, nor a state ID.
Tony eventually found Groundcover and was shown the ropes by other vendors, such as Kung Fu Panda (Cindy Gere). Pony currently sells papers for Groundcover, and is looking to get into the landscaping business. He has worked with a social worker through Groundcover and has successfully obtained an ID.
“I want people to know I’m just trying to survive, trying to make it."