One man's way of facing homelessness is changing an entire community.
True
Facebook

Rex Hohlbein usually starts his Facebook posts with two words stuck together:

needsBOOTS

sendANGELS


needsTENT

loveWINS

His followers know exactly what he means.

In fact, it prompts them to spring into action.

"heartfeltTHANKS." All images from Facing Homelessness, used with permission.

It's all because Rex realized the power of saying "hello" some six years ago.

It was around that time that he, a successful architect, began actually looking up and talking to the people he saw living on the streets every day. The conversations he was having with the homeless and those in need of community assistance were so deep and meaningful, he realized he couldn't let them continue to be invisible to the everyday passersby.

Everyone deserves to be seen and acknowledged.

Rex started a Facebook page called Facing Homelessness that has turned into a movement to spread kindness far and wide.

He regularly posts photos on it and shares stories of people he encounters in the Seattle area who are homeless or in need of assistance.

It's a place to make requests, to provide encouragement, and to show you care. And it's working: Every single ask of his has been fulfilled, no matter if it's been for a bus ticket, boots, socks, gas money, or even a virtual hug.

For instance, take Steve. Steve became homeless after his divorce in 2010. He was in need of a tent.

"needsTENT"

"[Steve's] hoping to get his CDL truck driver license; living homeless though keeps him busy, for money Steve does temp-labor, when we talked he said he was heading downtown to Trades Labor Corporation. Right now Steve is in need of a 2-3 person tent if anyone can drop OFF or ship TO our office: Facing Homelessness c/o Steve 1415 NE 43rd Street, Seattle WA 98105. THANKS!!!"

Done.

Or take Anthony. He was in need of boots.

"needsBOOTS"

"[Anthony's] been homeless pretty much after getting out of the military, has a team of folks trying to help him with head-issues, lost his DSHS food-stamps five months ago, was told he needs to start the process over, says he just can't do that. Anthony is a gentle soft-spoken man, one that you immediately like and want to get to know more. He's in need of new boots, his are falling apart. I asked him if he has a preference, he said best would be desert summer combat boots, size 13. With tax they are around $150.00. If (15) of us pitch in $10 we can make this happen on Monday for Anthony, here is the PayPal link. THANKS so much."

Mission accomplished.

The requests aren't always for items. Sometimes they're praise to show how proud the community is. Like when Alex got his GED.

"gotGED"

"Just taking a BEAUTIFUL moment to say how unbelievably proud we are of Alex. While living homeless out of his car with Karina, he's been holding down a job and AND studying to get his GED. This last Friday Alex called and said, 'I did it, I passed all of the exams for my GED!' Makes me tear up just writing it here, all the struggles this young man has had to go through to get here, it's a really REALLY beautiful thing he is doing for himself."

The compassion shown by complete strangers online has been incredible.

"I’ve been doing this for six years now and it’s pretty crazy how every single request has been met by our community of more than 34,000 supporters, usually within a few hours," Rex told Upworthy.

A small snapshot of the stories you can read over at Facing Homelessness.

It helps to build an awareness about our relationship to homelessness and the role we play in our own communities.

"As a community of compassion we can face homelessness by choosing to see the beauty of [the] person in front of us rather than the issue that overwhelms us," Rex says on his site. "We can give empathy a voice, trusting in our own creativity and compassion to find the answer that fits each moment of interaction."

The movement isn't trying to fix anyone or tell anyone how to live their life. It's simply about adding love into the equation. Every single person functions better when they feel loved.

"needsTENT"

"turningCORNERS"

"pleaseHELP"

We can all make a difference for others. Start by just saying "hello."

"It'll help get things started, to just move forward genuinely from the heart," Rex says. "From there, who knows, that might be all it becomes, or perhaps you just found your new best friend!"

Give it a shot sometime. You never know the impact you might have.

True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

Over the past 30-plus years, there has been a sea change when it comes to public attitudes about LGBT issues in America. In 1988, only 11% of Americans supported same-sex marriage, while in 2020, that number jumped to 70%

Even though there is a lot more work to do for full LGBTQ equality in the U.S. the country is far ahead of most of the world. According to Human Dignity Trust, 71 jurisdictions around the world "criminalize private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity," many of these specifically calling out sexual practices between men.

In 11 jurisdictions, people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual activity face the possibility of the death penalty for their behavior. "At least 6 of these implement the death penalty – Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen – and the death penalty is a legal possibility in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, and UAE," Human Dignity Trust says.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!