SARASOTA– What began as an Orlando teacher trying to teach his students, has turned into a real life lesson for many. Thomas Rebman, a Navy veteran, college graduate, and middle school reading teacher in Orlando gave up his job to teach others a lesson on being homeless. He has been traveling from city to city gathering support and at times even money for homeless awareness, and his next stop is Sarasota.
“I get the real story, and I sleep on the concrete and I’m there friend. I don’t lie to them except that I’m voluntarily homeless, I don’t share that with them, but I just tell them the truth, that I’m homeless like you, and I learn and go to every organization trying to get help and videotape everything that happens,” says Rebman.
Coming straight off his last stop in Daytona, Rebman was dropped off at city hall today, and when asked how long he plans on staying in Sarasota, he said as long as it takes to get that message out.
“You’re the number one meanest city for homeless in the U.S. according to the National Coalition.” Rebman says that’s the National Coalition for the Homeless. “They put out a list of the top 20 meanest cities based on the laws the cities have and how they treat their homeless,” says Rebman.
He comes to Sarasota with only his ID and a phone to document his experience and a bag of items he got from shelters or earned through work or panhandling.
“I don’t stage anything. I’m going to leave here, I have no idea what your city holds, the first homeless person I see, I’m going to ask what services are available and go from there,” says Rebman.
He said getting a job has been nearly impossible.
“After filling out 150 applications, considering I have a master’s degree, good references, and don’t have a record, that excludes me, the only thing I did was put homeless in the address block,” says Rebman.
After losing 23 pounds in 30 days, and dealing with various medical problems during his time on the street, Rebman says he does offer a solution to the problem.
“Your chronically homeless are people who have mental disabilities, or have been on the street over a year, so you have to house them before they have a chance to rehabilitate their own issues, whether they be medical, or jobs. They key is permanent supportive housing, getting them housed first,” says Rebman.
He says he’s had meetings with city leaders, and has over a hundred thousand likes on his Facebook page, “Homeless and Hungry,” and he says that since he made his first post to the page in Sarasota, it’s more than 1400 views within an hour. To see that page, go to https://www.facebook.com/hungryandhomeless?fref=ts.