An American flag
Mike Mozart // Flickr

Donald Brooks was born the oldest of nine children and raised in Southwest D.C. He attended Western High School, now Duke Ellington High School, in Glover Park, and went on to Bowie State and UDC, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in special education and studied fire science. 

After college, Brooks joined the military and traveled all over the world. He worked for the D.C. Fire Department as a paramedic for nine years and won the Fire Departments Bronze Bar for bravery for his work on the Air Florida crash at the 14th Street Bridge in January 1982. 

Brooks earned a professional counselor’s license through Catholic Charities and is working to earn D.C. certification as an addiction counselor. He has been with Street Sense since its earliest days, and recently became its Vendor Liaison. 

How did you become homeless? 

I faced some social and personal issues and career change, and I ignored some warning signs and ended up homeless. I now live at CCNV [community for creative Non-Violence] at Second and D streets, where I work as a case manager and a counselor. 

What do you think are the major factors causing homelessness in this country? 

The lack of affordable housing, the lack of health care, and the lack of agencies taking an active role so that the first two factors won’t make a person homeless. I have realized that anybody can become homeless, anywhere, anytime, because I have clients in all kinds of professions that one wouldn’t think of as being homeless. 

What advice would you give someone who is currently homeless?  

My main thing is, don’t give up the fight. Remember, a lot of individuals that America and the world have always looked up to are ones that have picked themselves up from deplorable or desperate situations, gained insight from those situations, and given help to others that are in that situation. They came out of difficulties and made their mark. So keep fighting the good fight. 

What is your favorite movie?  

Any movie that has a plot and that gives you something to think about. 

What is you favorite book?  

I’ve been a big fan of John Grisham, or any political book that has a good plot. 

What is your favorite food?  

Coming from a family of nine, I have learned that my favorite food is any food that is placed in front of you and that is digestible.