Woman lives on the street for a day to understand homelessness

Woman takes steps to understand homelessness

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Have you ever wondered what life is like for that homeless person you always see on the street? One Portland woman set out to learn more about the people who are so often seen, but are too often ignored.

On Friday, Renee Spears went out of her comfort zone, and for one day decided to live on the street.

"They could be any one of us with any change of circumstance. We lose our jobs, we have a health issues, but all of us could be out here at any time," said Spears.

That was Spears' realization after she spent some time walking the city. She spoke to homeless people, asked for money, and even slept on a park bench to get a deeper understanding of what it's like to be homeless.

"I couldn't really think of a better way to do it," said Spears.

It started around 10 a.m. Friday. Spears headed out with just a backpack and a sign that read "Local business owner trying to understand our homeless problem. All money to be donated to Sisters of the Road Café." She started by standing on a street corner.

"Most people ignored me," she said.

Homeless people we spoke with said they commend Spears for taking initiative to learn about the homeless life, even if just for one day.

"We get ignored tremendously and nobody wants to hear what we have to say or help us," said Randy Humphreys, who has been homeless for one year.

Spears lasted until 3 a.m. Saturday. She said some sprinklers turned on and she decided to head home. While she realizes one day doesn't come close to what homeless people live day-in and day-out, she said it was worth it to get a deeper understanding of what homeless people face.

"Our homeless people are loving, kind, welcoming people and they're ignored," began Spears. "We need to… show some compassion."

Humphreys said compassion could mean a simple "hi" or offering a helping hand.

"We're all struggling. We all need help. We all need money," he said.

"Pocket change, that's nothing. So out of your nothing that you can spare, gets me something that I can survive on," said Jake Campbell, who said he's been homeless on and off for about seven years.

Spears' story is getting a lot of attention. On Facebook, her status has been shared more than 8,000 times.

Spears received about $25 when she stood with her sign at the street corner. She donated that money and $225 of her own money to Sisters of the Road, an organization that's trying to end homelessness and poverty.

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