When someone dies in our shelter?

Dear Ryan, I work at a homeless shelter. Do you have any advice regarding the death of clients in a shelter? We have had 3 in the past month. I know it is part of the job, but I would like to better support my staff as well as our guests. Michaela Michaela, Unfortunately, that […]

That time I had an AK-47 pointed in my face

Every once in a while, I take a day off from writing about homelessness to tell a completely unrelated story… This is one of those days… I had just crossed the border from Ghana into Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in West Africa. I paid my fare to take a “bush taxi” to the capital city, […]

No one will ever break your rules again…

“None of what you taught will stop people from shooting up in my bathrooms.  How do I stop them?” I had just finished a live training with an international fast-food company.  The manager’s voice was somewhere between frustrated and frantic. I explained—again—how to talk to someone who has broken a rule. He interrupted me.  “I […]

ABC News story on homelessness and libraries

“Can you do a live training within 2 hours of New York City?” This was my first conversation with a producer at ABC News. She had seen a story in The Guardian that I was featured in. “Oh, and we need it within three weeks.” After a few frantic emails from me, the staff at […]

“I turn 35 next month and intend to grow old.”

A few weeks ago, I talked about how no one chooses to be homeless. I got the following email in reply that was simply beautiful in its raw honesty. I’m sharing Rebecca’s full email unedited with her permission. Peace, Ryan Dear Ryan, This one resonated with me.  I will still tell people that after college, […]

“Old man Jenkins is drunk and swinging on people.”

It was 9:00 pm in the second largest homeless shelter in Illinois. The only employees were me and Chris, who was brand new. It was a quiet night with a relatively low number of residents in the shelter (“only” 150 or so). A resident (a middle-aged Hispanic man with a handlebar mustache) approached Chris and […]

People who choose to be homeless

“What do we do about people who choose to be homeless?” A lot of people have asked me that question lately. Maybe it is the explosive growth of tent cities popping up around the country. My answer is simple: Nothing. We shouldn’t do anything about people who choose to be homeless because no one chooses […]

Jack the Jerk?

It was early in the pandemic. I had been living at the shelter for about a month. The shelter had an outbreak. I didn’t want to bring it home to my immunocompromised wife. It was 3:00 in the morning and I was in a deep sleep. I had worked 12-18 hour days for 30 straight […]

My heart grew two sizes

Last month we hosted the “Pennies in the Cup” 28-day challenge where we committed to preventing conflict with the vulnerable folks we serve. I was blown away by the number of folks who signed up for the Challenge: There’s one story in particular that I want to share with you because it embodies “Pennies in […]

He didn’t want to stab me… At least not at first.

It was 23 years ago, but I remember every detail in vivid color. A beautiful spring day… A mild breeze carried the scent of freshly mowed lawns. The sun was warm. Occasionally it hid behind clouds like a first-time parent playing peekaboo with a newborn. I was doing my rounds at Hesed House, a large […]