Q&A With Charles Purcell, Founder of Homeless United

Tell us a bit about Homeless United. 

Homeless United is a dream birthed from my own homeless experience. The goals are one, to raise awareness by passing out t-shirts that say; “Please Raise Awareness: #HomelessLivesMatter”. To give these shirts free to homeless people, with the focus being on Washington, DC, but not limited to DC. Second, after the area has been pretty much saturated with that message, to organize peaceful protests, marches, sit-ins to push for commonsense changes in laws and programs to get homeless people off the streets faster. Then finally, an affordable housing project. A place where rent will be income based and not fair market based.

What gave you the idea for your business and how did it start? 

The idea came when I was walking one night in March of 2015. It was cold. I had no money for bus fare, so that is why I was walking. I came across a homeless woman sleeping in front of a convenience store. She had all of her belongings with her and it was a lot. They weren’t there during the daytime, so it had to be a chore for her to move them in the morning then back again at night. But I said to myself there is no reason for someone to live like this in this country. We are one of, if not the richest country in the world. People who want housing should be able to have housing. So that is when the idea hit me with the shirts. To make the homeless stand out. The shirts help them be noticed. 

What’s your favorite thing about your job? 

Helping people and knowing in a small way I am making a difference. There is a quote by JFK that I like. It is; “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try”. I have a few others I like, but that sums it up. The homeless for the most part, feel that no one cares. They feel they don’t matter. Helping to change that motivates me. That and my faith. To much is given, much is required. We might not be able to change the world, but we can change the world for one person. That is what we all should be striving for.

What are your keys to making yourself productive? 

Like I mentioned, my faith is one. Knowing that God has given me this vision. Knowing that He is working behind the scenes to bring it to fruition helps me. I know this isn’t going to be an overnight process. But I know it is worth it. People are worth it. Being used in a way where people can see the love of God through me is rewarding and it keeps me going.

Tell us one long-term goal in your career. 

Long range is to see this movement go nationwide, even globally. Because of the internet, I have received support from all over, even Sidney, Australia. We are in a new age, a global economy. I hope to see homelessness drastically decrease, seeing people living happy and normal lives. For those who need it, a support system to help them stay housed. I actually would love to see Homeless United go out of business because the need for it won’t be needed. If it doesn’t go out of business, for the mission to change to help support those who were once homeless to stay off the streets. To bring a real end to chronic homelessness.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?

To be persistent and patient. To find what you love to do and do it. Not to be afraid to take risks. Failure is apart of success. If we don’t fail, we aren’t doing anything. Putting in the hard work early will make things easier down the road. Also, the younger you start fulfilling your dream or dreams, the easier it is. Also to know that everyone you thought would be supportive, won’t be. But to not give up. Use that as motivation to keep you going. Because one day they will see you were right. But if you give up, then they win.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field? 

To not give up. To stick with it. Make sure you are doing something you love. Because if you love what you are doing, then it doesn’t seem as hard as it may be. Be persistent and find a quote that inspires you. Like I said, I have a few. It has helped me tremendously. They remind me that it can be done. Just stick with it.

What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

Right now there isn’t much because I have been so focused on Homeless United. But I like watching football. Going to a baseball game. Sometimes I just like to enjoy my alone times. Listen to some music or watch television. I am a big James Bond fan and I love Sci-Fi. I like a lot of things. I am pretty eclectic. But those are some I can think of at the moment.

Name a few influential books you’ve read and/or websites you keep up with that you’d recommend to readers.

Well I read the Bible everyday. I need to get my daily inspiration. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small by Mark Batterson. How To Get What You Want And Want What You Have by John Gray. Play the Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be by Mark Batterson.