After several years of observing local homelessness, long-time Concord resident Wayne Calhoon finally decided to stop being afraid and annoyed.
“I met a woman whose son was homeless, and she had a vision of starting a nonprofit to help more people like him. Her story resonated with me, so I helped her establish Passion to the Streets,” he said. “Once her organization was up and running, I was inspired to see what I could do in my own neighborhood.”
Calhoon, a homeowner in the Monument corridor for 26 years, started introducing himself to people he suspected were homeless. “I’ve gotten to know my homeless neighbors well,” he said. “I do a lot of listening and a little chatting. Most people just want some adult conversation about real life.”
He has become a tenacious advocate for his neighbors who are facing complex challenges like homelessness. For three years, Calhoon has been driving through Concord at night to check in with his friends living on the street. He and his housed friends regularly purchase supplies such as blankets, toiletries and water to give out as needed. Some people have been living rough for a long time; others are dealing with temporary setbacks.
“Once I met a woman who had just become homeless that day. Within 24 hours, I had her re-homed and she is back in the mainstream,” he recounted. “I helped another woman get into an addiction recovery program while I fostered her dog. She did well for a while, but then she relapsed and is homeless again.”
Calhoon credits his experience in private elementary school for guiding his philosophy. “We spent time with lots of different kids in the community, including those who needed extra help, so I learned early about the value of compassion,” he recalled.
He knows all too well that anyone can become homeless. “One particularly harsh winter, my house became damaged and it was unsafe to live there,” he said. “I had to move into a temporary shelter, where I was treated, and mistreated, like any other homeless person needing assistance.”
He also remembers Mary, a 76-year-old Pleasant Hill homeowner. “After getting some shady advice, abusing alcohol and making some bad choices, Mary lost her house to foreclosure and moved into her car. When it was impounded, I helped her find a sober house, where she still lives. So that’s a success story.”
Calhoon recently started working with another nonprofit, Urban Upreach, which wants to develop rapid transitional housing to help people become more self-sufficient. “We just started a weekly program in the Monument called Taco Talks, where both the homeless and the housed can get to know each other, eat some tacos and discuss important issues.”
He sees homeless people who struggle with a wide range of issues. “Fighting with each other, addiction and mental illness are common. The constant harassment by authorities and the lack of sanctioned shelters makes things even worse, especially when so many people treat the homeless as outcasts,” he noted. “The biggest misconception is that most homeless people choose to be homeless, which just isn’t true. Everybody has a name and a story, and most are receptive to a good vibe. Just befriending our homeless neighbors makes a big difference.”