Spotlight Interview with Barry

Published By: Mariam Daud & Noor Abdulrahman

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“I have a belief that if you treat people right, you’ll run into people kind of like you and others will gravitate towards you.” This quote encompasses much of what our homebound friend Barry shared with us about his approach to life on the street. A sixty-six year old, Chicago born, Orlando resident, Barry has been homeless for approximately six years now. Barry has two daughters, seven grandchildren and an education from a historically black university. His life has since taken many turns, leading him to say goodbye to the life he once knew.

During his time in the downtown area, Barry has become well known to many, volunteering his time by cleaning up the community and getting involved in a variety of ways. Despite facing many health and financial problems this past year, Barry has remained an advocate for himself and many others. Amongst the many people Barry has met during the pandemic is a woman named Cheryl from the Compassion Corner by the Coalition for the homeless here in downtown Orlando, where food, showers, laundry and mail, among other necessities are made available to the homeless. Barry says it is people like Cheryl that have helped him the most. “What is happening down here is extraordinary,” Barry says.

Although he praises organizations like SALT, Project Downtown and the Coalition for the homeless for the work they do, Barry shares that what he finds to be one of the most key resources for the homeless community, mental health, is still lacking in the downtown area.

On mental health, Barry specifically highlighted the importance of services such as temporary job assistance and therapeutic services. “Mental health is not only a bad problem but a major excuse. The best thing to do is to get people on medication and help them find a steady job and support.” Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic many housing, job, and mental health offices closed for months on end, leaving many to worry and struggle to even get a chance at a normal life. Barry was told that he would get housing in March 2020, and to this day has yet to be placed.

Despite the many challenges Barry remains optimistic saying,“Every day above ground is the best thing that has happened besides salvation.” In this profound statement, we found that Barry’s highly optimistic mindset stems from a strong belief in God. “You must put not just your best foot but your whole body forward. People talk about sacrifice but it’s not a sacrifice if God already chose you,” he says.

About the author
Mariam Daud & Noor Abdulrahman
Mariam Daud is a recent graduate from the University of Central Florida and has been with PDO since 2018. Mariam’s goal in PDO is to help food insecurity as well as educate individuals on the needs of the homeless community in Orlando through her efforts on the PDO blog. Outside of PDO Mariam’s interests include music, reading, dogs, and spending time with friends and family.

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