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 […]

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 […]

Homeless Tip: Lion King in the shower

(This is an actual entry from my diary on July 6, 2011. It is edited for length) Dear Diary, I slept at Hesed House last night in bed #29 in the men’s shelter. I almost hadn’t followed through on spending the night. As usual, it was my wife, Krissie, who set me straight.  I had […]

“Get a job, bum!” someone screamed from a passing car.

Jake carried six bags of crushed aluminum cans down a busy street. He wasn’t walking very fast. The bags were heavy and tearing in several places. “Get a job, bum!” someone screamed from a passing car.  Jake kept his head down and continued walking. He didn’t want a confrontation. Eventually, Jake reached the recycling center. […]

When is a question not a question?

I was coming back from the hospital cafeteria when the nurse stopped me in the hall. “And how are YOU doing?” she asked me. I just stared at her. I had been suppressing my emotions for several weeks. I genuinely didn’t know. We were in a large hospital in New York City. I had been […]

What color is that rule?

3:00 a.m.  The darkest part of night.  The first big thunderstorm of summer.  Rain poured off her straw-colored hair. She struggled to carry her three children by herself—a newborn and twin toddlers in car seats.  She shuffled slowly along an urban bicycle trail.  The incision from her C-Section was infected. Can you imagine what that […]