Matthew Hamer grew up on Chicago’s South Side. In junior high, his family of four was evicted from their one-bedroom apartment, leaving them in homeless shelters. An abundance of hard work and the intervention of a highly committed teacher allowed Matthew and his brother, Levy, to graduate college and find successful careers.
“I still remember that day. I got a call from my mom. She goes ‘Hey, meet me at this location. We’re moving into a shelter.’ And I go, ‘Huh?’ She said, ‘Meet me at this location. We’re moving to a shelter. I have to go. Click.’”
“We pulled up to Olive Branch on 63rd and Western. That night I cried myself to sleep. Me and my brother, we shared the same bed that night and just cried each other to sleep. We could not believe it.”
“My mother was a go-getter. She was Mrs. Make-It-Happen. She put my sister through military school and she got me and my brother enrolled at Holy Angels Catholic for junior high.”
“She had schizophrenia. Individuals with this illness can’t always trust enough to accept help.”
“We knew our mom was trying her hardest. The issue was her well-being, her mental state. And we just knew like, this wasn’t on us. This wasn’t on her.” “Fortunately, my brother and I met some good individuals while we were living on the South Side. Devin Jones – I say he’s my brother now, but at the time he was my teacher. Mr. Jones.”
“He was cool – very relatable. Devin helped me and my brother tremendously. After eighth grade, Devin became almost a life support.”
“He put us through high school. It was a blessing to attend St. Laurence from my freshman year through graduation. Many did not know of our living situation.”
“We bounced around in the shelter for about two and a half years, and after that, Devin and his mom literally said, ‘You’re not doing this no more. You guys cannot do this.’ From that point on, we lived with Miss Jones and Devin.”
“I was finally like, ‘Wow. Things are turned around for us.’ And that’s it.”
“During those four years at St. Laurence battling homelessness, if Devin and his family weren’t there, I think it would have been a totally different story.”
Matthew graduated from Marian University in Indianapolis in May 2022. He has a full-time job in logistics, and he recently incorporated his own business.
“It’s called BEEP – Business Entrepreneurship Experience Program. It will be a 16-week program to equip high school scholars with the necessary tools to navigate the financial aspects of this society. It will provide a platform to foster entrepreneurship.”
“I always knew ownership was the main thing – we need ownership in our marriages, our communities and our businesses. Right now, African-Americans are less than 3% of all business owners in the United States.”
“A driving factor to uplift the Black community and get more financial freedom is to own something, in small things as well as big. To have communities where you know your neighbor who owns the laundromat down the street, or the gas station around the corner, or the florist who works from this beautiful backyard garden.”
“One thing about homelessness: I never, never compare my stories. Everybody had their own stories. There’s people with way rougher stories than me.”
“Homelessness is bigger than just getting a job and saving up money and getting your own place. There are a lot of factors to it, a lot of moments that led up to it. You’ve got to show grace to these people on the streets. I was really just a high schooler going to school every day and nobody knew what I was going through.”
“Just be nice. Be kind individuals. That’s the main thing. And that gets you a long way.”
Entrepreneur, carrier account manager
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