When Brett Jones, a Navy SEAL turned entrepreneur, and Chakri Deverapalli, an immigrant from India who came to the United States to become an engineer, got the idea to see what it was really like to be homeless in Huntsville, they didn’t know what to expect.
What they found out was nothing short of incredible. Over and over again Huntsville residents showed generosity to the two men.
There are certain places you see homeless people in this city—under the overpass at Governors Drive and Memorial Parkway or sitting outside certain businesses—but Jones and Deverapalli, both part of the Leadership 30 class, wanted to know how homeless people are treated in our city, according to al.com.
From their stop at Manna House to the employee at Work For Vets, people went above and beyond to help them get back on their feet.
The original idea came from Chakri, who realized how easy it could be to end up homeless when he came to the United States on scholarship, and there was no one to pick him up from the bus stop. He was in Alabama for the first time with nowhere to go, according to the Homeless in Huntsville Facebook page.
Throughout the documentary, the two men went to the spots known for helping Huntsville’s homeless—Manna house, the Downtown Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army—during their four-day experiment. They even adopted two alternate identities based on people they knew and circumstances they previously endured.
Brett posed as a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder and a gambling addiction. He has personal experience with PTSD from his time as a Navy SEAL. He had a friend who lost everything because of a gambling addiction, according to a Facebook post.
“This is how I became Brian and Chakri became Sam,” Brett wrote on Facebook. “My friend Sam and I just got to Huntsville this week. On our way from Chicago, we were robbed. We have no form of identification, phones, or food. We have a back pack, sleeping bag, and five dollars in our pocket.”
What’s amazing about their time as homeless men in Huntsville is the outpouring of love shown by passersby. During one stop at a local Starbucks, they were approached by several people who wanted to help.
One woman brought out hot breakfast sandwiches. When they caught up with her to talk, she told them if she could afford $5 coffee every morning, then she could certainly afford sandwiches for two men who slept outside the night before.
“The love and compassion that these people were pouring on us—they had no idea we had cameras, they had no idea they were being watched—it was just people being amazing,” Brett said. “It made me love the fact that I live in this city.”
Over and over people reach out to them to help. From the churches who handed out free food to the woman who gave them the raincoat off her back in the middle of a downpour, Huntsville residents showed once again that they were some of the best in the nation.
You made us proud, Huntsville.
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