The Things They Carry

When you lose everything, what do you fight to keep? Why?

In New York City, a record 60,000 are homeless, including 24,000 children.

What’s it like to lose everything? What do you fight to keep? How do you choose?

In this video series, five formerly homeless New Yorkers served by Robin Hood share their painful ordeals and the precious keepsakes they held on to. More than physical objects they are memories of who they were, sources of strength, and reminders to never give up.

These are their stories. These are the things they carry.

A Diploma

“This is my college degree. It means to me that I’m a fighter.

I had it all. I had a BMW. I had a two-bedroom condo. I didn’t know that I was going to have an aneurysm. There was nothing to tell me that. I was in the hospital I think probably two weeks. Then when I got taken back home, I knew that I didn’t have the money.

I left my apartment because basically I was a week away from the eviction. And so I thought if I keep this with me, I’m always going to feel like somebody. Like I have something to offer.” — Dawn

A Wallet

“I lost all my desire to live. I thought to jump on the highway. When I touched my pants and I felt the wallet that my mother gave it to me. It was like an angel who told me, ‘What are you doing?’ I saw my mother. The wallet saved me.” — Hector

A Shawl

“I used to cover myself on the train because it’s like a tent. I didn’t want anybody looking at me when I’m sleeping — the noise and the people. I would just cover myself with the shawl and it kept me warm. This is a reminder never to go back to where I was. Maybe one day, I’ll give it away to somebody. I’m going to keep it for a while. It’s my shawl.” — Donna

A Bible

“I was literally on the streets. I didn’t have nowhere to go. Sitting in Starbucks late night, I opened up the Bible and started reading. I felt God’s spirit. You can see it’s missing [the cover]. Kind of tore up here, but it still does the job.” — Nikki

A Pair of Jeans

“I kept my pants…these pants were just as black as the bracelet I got on, that’s how dirty they were. I keep these jeans here to remind myself of where I come from, just in case when I get my place, if I feel like I want to act stupid or crazy I go in my closet and I look at these here. This here say, ‘Yo, William Curtis, wake up man. You don’t want to go back to wearing them pants again, do you?’” — William

Breaking Ground is a Robin Hood-funded affordable housing provider for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Urban Pathways is a Robin Hood-funded nonprofit that ensures homeless New Yorkers have the housing, services, and support they need to be self-sufficient.