Florida Teacher Chooses Homelessness
Thomas Rebman was a middle school English teacher in Orlando, Florida, when he decided to voluntarily go homeless for thirty days in July 2014 to teach his students about homelessness.
Rebman, according to his website (homeless-hungry.org), began his journey with his ID and the clothes he was wearing. He only used legal government services, like shelters and food pantries, to survive. In order to make money to pay for necessities, he donated plasma.
During this time, Rebman kept a blog on his Facebook page “Homeless and Hungry,” and updated videos to YouTube so his students gain some first-hand perspective on homelessness. The Facebook page attracted a community of over 12,000 followers and, as a result, $4000 was raised to donate to various organizations, according to his website.
One of the biggest challenges for Rebman was that Orlando criminalizes homelessness. According to a report issued last year called “No Safe Place,” issued by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, “34% of homeless people in the Orlando area are without shelter beds, yet the city restricts or prohibits camping, sleeping, begging, and food-sharing.”
Rebman, in many of his videos, expressed anger with these laws and their confusing nature. He explained that problems with law enforcement arise when the laws are not understood.
“I can’t figure them out, and I’ve got a master’s degree,” Rebman told the Orlando Sentinel. “I know two of my fellow homeless who were arrested.”
Now, since the conclusion of Rebman’s 30-day journey, he has devoted himself to educating people about homelessness. His Facebook page is updated daily with information and people can make donations on his website.