Spotlight on Chris Gardner: from homelesss to multimillionaire

Chris Gardner
Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner- a picture of perfectness filled with fatherhood and a multimillionaire business. But life wasn’t always this way. Growing up with an abusive stepfather that regularly beat his mother and being raped by a man as a boy certainly affected him greatly. Gardner’s ex-partner, Jackie, gave birth to their son, Christopher Jarrett Media Gardner Jr., in 1981, the same year that he was working as a research lab assistant at UCSF, which only paid $8,000 annually- an amount that was not enough to support a family, and eventually quit after four years, becoming a medical equipment salesman.

Gardner recalls a pivotal moment in his life, when he came across an immaculately-dressed man named Bob Bridges driving a red Ferrari whilst offering him his spot in a parking lot. “You can have my spot”, he said, “but I gotta ask you a couple questions… What do you do? How do you do it?”. The man answered back with, “I’m a stockbroker”.

More determined than ever to follow this man’s path, he began directly visiting investment firms to try and find work, but found himself taken into custody instead due to $1,200 of fines in unpaid parking tickets. After being released, Gardner went directly to Dean Witter Reynolds’ stock brokerage, and was accepted into the training program. Despite this being an unpaid internship, his determination to become the best shone through, and he would always be the first and last one in the office, always trying to reach his goal of 200 calls a day. However, this unpaid role meant that it began a struggle to support living expenses whilst also solely supporting a two-year-old son.

Chris Gardner and his son
Chris Gardner and his son

Gardner and his son secretly struggled with homelessness with none of his co-workers knowing about it for over a year. He would often make every effort to put his son in daycare, stand in soup kitchens, and slept anywhere where he and his son would be safe, such as at the office after hours, motels, public transport. In one case, they slept at MacArthur station in Oakland, CA, locking the door and sleeping the whole night on the bathroom floor, with people constantly banging loudly on the door wondering what was going on inside.

The bathroom floor where Gardner and his son slept overnight
The bathroom floor where Gardner and his son slept overnight
The toilet scene, as scene in Will Smith's 'Pursuit of Happiness'
The toilet scene, as scene in Will Smith’s ‘Pursuit of Happiness’

In another case, the father and son duo often had to wait in line for rooms provided by the local church. The lines for the rooms started at 6pm, and you had to be out by 8am the next morning. On numerous nights, they missed the cut, meaning that they had to sleep in subway stations or waiting areas.

Eventually, his willpower and refusal to give up lead to him being employed by Bear Stearns & Company, where he became a top earner through his ever-lasting determination. In 1987, he founded his own brokerage firm, Gardner Rich, in Chicago, and the rest is history.

“I couldn’t tell you that we were homeless, I just knew that we were always having to go. So, if anything, I remember us just moving, always moving”, says Gardner, looking back.

The first day that him and his son had their own roof over their heads will forever be etched clearly into Gardner’s mind. “On the first night we slept on the floor because we didn’t have any furniture yet. The next day we were walking out the door and my little boy got very upset. He said ‘papa, you forgot to bring our things’. He was upset because he was used to having to take our stuff with us every day, wherever we were. I don’t know how to explain the beauty of it, to be able to say to my little boy ‘we are home now, we don’t have to bring our stuff anymore.'”

He believes that homelessness that can affect anyone in the city, no matter the race or no matter how lazy or not lazy you are, and success is in the reach of anyone, if you try hard enough.

We hope that this inspirational story of Chris Gardner shows that there are more complex stories behind the homeless- hard work is not a word that is non existent in their vocabulary. I myself definitely do not have the ability to become a stockbroker!

Below is Gardner’s story made accessible through Will Smith’s adaption of it in ‘Pursuit of Happiness’.

Written by JC

NFL stars spend a day in the life of a homeless person… and are shocked at what they find

In recent times, it’s hard to ignore the soaring amount of homeless people living on the streets. “Will they be cold out here? What happens to them if they don’t get enough money to buy food for the day? Where are there families?” are just some of the many thoughts that constantly run through our heads when seeing them. Whilst it’s impossible to stop and talk to every single homeless person on every single street, how you react to even one of them speaks a great deal more. Whilst it’s great to simply tell you what they deal with on a daily basis, it’s even better to show you.

Chris Long
Chris Long

Chris Long and William Hayes, two players from the NFL’s St Louis Rams decided to see for themselves the hardships that the homeless constantly suffer from. These two men, who usually live the opposite of life on the streets and are worth millions, put themselves in homeless shoes for a couple of days with only $8 between them, where they panhandled, slept outside, and begged for money.

William Hayes
William Hayes

During this time, they were questioned by police repeatedly just for walking past looking homeless, asked to leave their makeshift home for the night due to trespassing, and stared down by many who didn’t think twice about it. They even met Marty, a chronically homeless man that has made his home in an empty building in St. Louis, who used to own a wrecking company became homeless due to a bitter divorce and DWI’s. Upon meeting him and hearing his story, both players immediately wanted to help out, and were able to put him and another into temporary housing, helping them support them for the first two months.

With only those $8 between them two, begging for money for dinner became a must. Chris managed to get $5 from a generous driver, which meant that the two could now go and buy a burger each from the fast food store, instead of going to the soup kitchen for a small free meal, and it was then that they both realized how much such a small amount of money actually meant to the homeless. In many cases in everyday life, many people simply use spare change or spare silver coins to drop into people’s hats- think about how big of a smile you can put on their faces if you give more! After all, they’re much more in need than we are.

This experience led to many realizations, firstly by Chris, that “the causes of homelessness are so multiple and layered”. How we treat others is important, as none of us have any idea what they’re really going through.

“Now when I see a homeless person, I see lives on detour. Mothers and fathers struggling to be reunited with their children, faces that have been deprived of sleep and shelter. Individuals living in fear and loneliness. Human beings looking to reclaim their dignity… I just can’t look away anymore”.- Chris Long.

We at You Over Me feel greatly inspired by this video, and would like it to give some insight into the hard lives of the homeless. When we’re sleeping warm and comfily in our beds in Winter, many of them are constantly being told to move along at night or don’t even have the warm protection required. Imagine being looked down upon every time you walk the streets! Let’s bind together and realize that we are all the same, and they deserve the help that we are able to give.

Video source credit: Tony Bologne II 

Written by JC

Interview with: Joe

'Joe'
‘Joe’

Here at You Over Me, we see the power of engaging with others. So we took some time yesterday to go talk to someone special to find out his story and the reason why he is where he is today. We met up with ‘Joe’ (he preferred not to be pictured), a 39 year old homeless man that is usually situated in Newtown, and I drive past him everyday that I go to work. He always has all of his possessions packed into three or four bags next to him. He’s certainly not your average joe (pun intended), and showed me that there is definitely always more the eye. 

Q1: How did you come to live here?

I used to live in a little house with my wife at the time, and owned my own business (he described it as a paper printing company, similar to Kinko’s). It was destroyed by the downturn in the economy and the Internet and personal computers coming in- not many people needed to come in and print documents anymore as they had their own printers at home. It was so sad, I’d owned the company for over 10 years and had built so many relationships from it. After that, my wife and I started to grow apart and eventually she wanted a divorce, which because of a prenup that we signed before, I had to give her most of my money on top of expensive divorce fees.  I spiralled into depression and drinking. I’ve been homeless for about two years now.

Q2: What do you do everyday? Do you have job?

Contrary to popular belief, some of us work bloody hard everyday. Although I no longer have a home, everyday I’m trying to pick myself up and save up for something small. I wasn’t always like this (homeless), and I don’t believe I always will be. I work as a cleaner in the city, and so every morning I wake up at about 6am and go to the gym on the corner where they let me use the showers and get ready for work. Real nice of them. Rand, the owner he’s a good bloke, always helps me out when I’m in need. I work damn hard and haven’t called in sick even for one day. But the rental and housing rates are just too high, I can’t afford it at the moment and haven’t been able to get too many shifts.

Q3What’s the hardest part of being homeless?

Everyday is a struggle. Finding something to eat that is substantial, finding shelter when the shelter homes are full. The other day, I went into Maccas to get something to eat, and it was humiliating. Everyone was looking down at me because of the way that I was dressed. I used to be like everyone else, but it sometimes seems like we’re a completely different race or group from others. I didn’t get any shifts the week before as the company that I work as a cleaner closed for a week and didn’t need me, so I didn’t have much money for food. I wanted to get a burger but I only had a few dollars in my pocket, and I was missing 50 cents. So I couldn’t get the burger as I didn’t have 50 cents. It’s also hard because although I don’t have an alcohol problem anymore, sometimes when it’s freezing out here and all I have is one thin blanket, sometimes not even, I’m going to go to the liquor store and buy a drink when it’s that cold to warm me up a bit.

Joe, like many others, are not simply homeless because they choose to be. Many hardships and personal traumas have led to such situations, and many of them are working hard to change that around. We hope that this interview has helped bust the myth that homeless people are lazy and don’t actually have jobs. Clearly, that’s not the case. Stay tuned for more interviews!

Written by JC

Meet the Melbourne man placing the needs of the homeless over his own

Nasir Sobhani
Nasir Sobhani

Less than five years ago, Nasir Sobhani depended on any type of drug that he could come by, leading to a downward spiral that nearly ruined his life.

Now a changed man, Nasir has been sober for a few years and works as a barber, taking two days off a week to travel around Melbourne to give haircuts to the homeless for free.

“A homeless person doesn’t get the respect and attention needed”, Nasir says. “So letting them know that they are worthy of human interaction is actually the main purpose here”.

homeless 2
Nasir’s first client

His first patron was a heroin addict who wasn’t jobless (as everyone would assume), but washed the windows everyday for the barber shop where Mr Sobhani worked at.

“I asked him to let me cut his hair, so we sat down together and we shared out stories about our past… After I was done… his mum even came in and was taking photos and was in tears”.

Whilst talking to Nasir, he made sure to let us know that the connections created with these homeless people were held in high regard, and that the difficult stories that were shared from them only made him want to help them more.

Let’s encourage people to be more like Nasir- let’s place the needs of the homeless over ours #youoverme in order to pave the way for a better world.

You can follow his journey here:

https://instagram.com/thestreetsbarber/?hl=en

http://www.thestreetsbarber.com/

Written by JC