The Working Homeless, A Growing Group

Picture Courtesy

(KATV) Little Rock - What you may perceive as homelessness, the tattered clothing and people begging on the street is actually a small percentage of the reality.

There are people who work and go to school around you, you'd never sense don't have a home.

It's nothing new; in fact we drive by people who are homeless so frequently, many people are desensitized. But there are an increased number of people in the capital city without a permanent address, not because of substance abuse or mental illness, rather the economically homeless and they're literally living out of a suit case.

Charles Neely point out the window, "There was a time I had no hope out here on these very streets."

Neely walked the city streets for 7-years after losing his job in 2001. He lived in tents and called digging through the trash a hobby. "There are those who fall on hardships and there are those who like to make a career out of it."

He admits anger and frustration didn't help the situation. Odd jobs never amounted to much. But it was year seven when Neely says he sought forgiveness and got motivated. Within months two women came into his life with a mission. He chokes up, "And that is what started me on the road I had never seen before to getting off the streets because when I thought nobody cared, people did care."

Holly Halters and Carmen Fegetly got Neely on the path to employment and becoming a renter again.

Neely also volunteers at the Stew Pot, a place that once kept him from going hungry where he is now a positive example of what can happen. "I don't forget where I came from or who helped me."

Not everyone has someone who reaches out to them.

Georgia Mjartan with Our House says, "One of the hardest for our staff is to have to turn people away. If I come here early enough in the morning, I see a line of people at the gate."

Mjartan is the Executive Director of Our House, a shelter for working homeless. They provide education, work force training, job seeking help, child care center and much more. "A person can live here until they save up to $10,000 so we're all about helping people be self sufficient."

They're housing more families and women than in past years and stay at capacity.

One week on the street was a nightmare, too much for Derek Washington to bare. An electrician, when he lost his job and the last pay check ran out, he lost everything and now stays at our house. "Difficult yeah, but motivating at the same time because I know this is not where I want to be nor need to be."

His first day at Our House, Washington locked down a job. He smiles, "It's humbling. I try not to get too excited about it but I know good things are to come if I can just stay out of my own way." He adds, "If an opportunity does present itself to were I can give back to Our House, I'm all for it."

The growing population of unsheltered homeless is Aaron Reddin's focus with his non profit, The One Inc. "Lots of people, college students; pregnant women. We've found a little bit of everything and continue too."

Reddin says you walk by people you'd never think are homeless, clean shaven, nicely dressed, but live in tents on the outskirts of town. "If the shelter is 10-miles away from where you actually have an income, do you quit your job to go stay in a shelter or do you or do you pitch a tent in the woods?"

This is one of four vans filled to capacity, ready to unload donated necessities at camps.

So for people who haven't been adopted by once strangers like Charles Neely or secured a spot at a program like Our House, Reddin and his friends are volunteering to help the growing masses of working homeless.

Reddin concludes, "If you can't fully prevent something, you're never going to end it. So we just try to make each day a little bit better than yesterday was."

Charles Neely is a veteran. Armed with a hand-held camera, he is shooting a documentary about life on our city streets.

Derek Washington is saving money and living at Our House. He is working as an electrician.

If you'd like to learn more about Our House or The One Inc, click on the links under the picture.