Comments: 41 • Responses: 15  • Date: 

gman_76712 karma

What did you do in that 4 years of homelessness to internship?

avanstark33 karma

Here it is in stages/subcategories:

Housing: 1. Living on the streets - THIS IS REALLY SCARY. People can be nice, but most people ignore you during the day and make you feel bad about yourself. During the night, it's hard finding anywhere to sleep and even if you're lucky enough to find somewhere to sleep, you're too stressed to sleep for long 2. Tried to couchsurf... first time, the guy tried to force me to be his boyfriend... second time, the guy stole my foodstamp money and fafsa money... third time, the guy kicked me out because he was too busy to "babysit" me, but to be fair... he was also a medical student, so I respected him the most and hold no hard feelings 3. Stayed in sheltered homes - the first one was an all men's shelter.. I saw a guy die at this one; the second one was a youth shelter - stayed with 39 other people in one space (+staff) 4. transitional housing program - I was lucky enough to stay in an SRO (single room occupancy), and I would pay 33% of what I made and that was put into a savings account 5. Apartment - After about 2 1/2 years, I was finally able to get an apartment! It felt SO good to be able to be responsible enough to call somewhere my own home... but I did cry a lot the first few nights, because it's a bit of an experience.

Employment: 1. At first, I had nothing. I was too busy looking for somewhere to stay to find work. I applied to food stamps/GA. 2. When I got to the sheltered home, I found a job at the mall. I was the #1 salesperson almost consistently, and it felt good to feel needed 3. I quit when one of the managers found out I was living in a shelter. He took advantage of my situation and prevented me from being promoted (I'm guessing because I was a strong sales person), and he also made me work hours that I wasn't getting paid for 3. I started a tech training program when I got into the transitional housing program. They paid about $600/month in stipends the first 6 months, and then $1000/month in stipends the next 6 months. 4. My work paid off, and about 5 months into my internship, I was offered a job. I'm not going to reveal how much they paid me, but I was making more than my dad.

There's other stuff, but that's the economic situation I guess.

perpetualmotions1 karma

How did you go from working sales at a mall to being accepted into a technical program?

avanstark2 karma

I applied. LOL. I don't know how else to answer that, lol.

EternallyLowBattery7 karma

Have you and your dad spoken or resolved your difference since?

avanstark13 karma

Yeah! After the first year of being homeless, I basically told him that with or without him, I would make something of myself. He talked to a couple of his friends, my siblings kept asking about me, and my mom really pressured him. Now, my relationship with my parents is the best it has ever been, but it's taken a lot of work. I think we all value each other a lot more, and if I had an opportunity to change anything, I wouldn't.

EternallyLowBattery7 karma

Glad to hear it man! Some of my mates still haven't reconnected with their disapproving parents since coming out, its a sad state of affairs, good to see you were more fortunate.

avanstark10 karma

After a while, I understood my dad's perspective. We talked about it, and he said that what he really feared most is that I was alone. He had no advice to give me because he didn't understand what I was or who I would become. Luckily, I did well on my own, and I told him that the skills he taught me growing up were what got me to where I am today.

He realized his mistakes, but it's true. It's not the same story for everyone, but your mates just need to keep moving forward.

I hate the "It gets better" crap, because that's such a passive load of shit. People have to work to make it better. I would much rather prefer, "Let's make it better" as the message we tell folks.

stemsomale6 karma

What did you eat/drink in a typical day while homeless? Was it difficult to remain properly nourished and hydrated? Did you ever beg on the streets with signs? If so, how much money did people give you and what did your street signs say?

avanstark1 karma

I ate whatever they were giving at the sheltered homes. When I was on food stamps, the best I could get was crap junk food. It was horrible. My weight fluctuated A LOT. You don't know where your next meal was coming from, so you basically were always hungry but never hungry? High levels of cortisol kill your appetite. The best way to describe it is that I just ate because I felt like I would never eat again.

The only time I EVER begged was when I didn't have money to get to school. The transportation fee was about $1.75 during that time, and without it, I would have had to walk at least 5 hours to get to the school campus from the sheltered home. People yelled at me for asking them, and it took me about 30min to get $1.75. No joke, I lost a lot of faith in humanity at that point. (This is while I was working at the mall.

darkie913 karma

What was your job at those companies?

avanstark8 karma

At the first company, I started as an intern for the HR tech department, but had a bunch of opportunities that ended in a creative producer position (I was managing the creative communication efforts)

At the second company, I monitored porn, beheading videos, online fights, and hacked accounts... for a social media company... one that chirps a bit...

ediblehunt1 karma

what was the pay like at the chirping job? doesnt sound so bad

avanstark1 karma

It was shit pay for the type of work we were doing. The pay I was getting is the same pay that was just announced as the future of California, which in San Francisco is jack-shit. I get paid more at the nonprofit I'm at now. But it doesn't matter because they moved my former job to Manila, and are paying people to do that job about... $600/month to do it... which I have all types of feelings about. I yelled at the CEO over it... it was a mess.

booomhorses2 karma

How did you get your foot on the door of those companies? Did you family help with that or was through your people you met on your own?

Just saying that because even if you were homeless, coming from a relatively affluent background might have helped you too.

avanstark1 karma

Nope, both my parents are immigrants. They are FAR from affluent. I got into that job because of a tech training program called, "Year Up."

WholeGrainPoseidon2 karma

What was the biggest challenge you faced "transitioning" back from homeless life?

avanstark3 karma

Seeing myself as a whole person. Homelessness REALLY fucks with your self-image and self-esteem.

At my corporate jobs, I NEVER saw myself as worthy of being there. I was felt like an outsider. No one in my family has ever made it that far. Some of it also has to do with race. There are hardly any people of color in the corporate world. Even while there, it was hard to see a future for myself.

ryhntyntyn1 karma

Do you think you are average in terms of upbringing, education, intelligence, resourcefulness? Could anyone have done what you did? Not only in terms of accomplishing it, but getting through the various mental hurdles that you had to?

avanstark1 karma

I had a pretty tough upbringing, even before the homelessness.. so yes, I think anyone could have done it. BUT a lot of the resources that I used, are cut/gone/reduced. The city is WAY too unaffordable now to break into, even with 2 years of savings.

I don't consider myself extraordinary, but I do consider myself adaptable. I asked a lot of people questions, and I put my pride aside.

saddetective871 karma

How did you find the energy to push forward after hitting rock bottom?

avanstark1 karma

I didn't think about it. I just did. I was constantly in fight or flight mode.

confusedmalamut1 karma

First of all: Congratulations!

Second is: What is your advice and mindset to always give 100% like you do?

Thank you!

avanstark2 karma

No mindset. Just fucking work. ( at least to get through the tough stuff)

After that, value what you're worth, and keep looking for new opportunities. Never settle for what others tell you you're worth. Challenge yourself.

Adz12991 karma

Good, for you! I'm actually about to start taking a rigorous 3 month tech course to get into coding.

Why did you decide to go into tech and how long did it take you to learn the ropes?

scmoua6662 karma

In case OP dont answer, I can. Trust me, I'm an Engineer. From scratch to 3 month, you can have the very basics. Depends which course, but I assume Web? I work in Web, and after my fancy degree that took freaking 6 years to obtain, I see that my level is at the bottom of the food chain. So with 3 months, I am not sure who would hire you (based on the education alone). However, I am CERTAIN someone would hire you based on the projects you do. Experience and education are almost nothing for employers, compared to accomplishments like a site, an app, a game, etc that shows your skillz. And apart from extremely knowledgeable experts in the field, everyone is Googling 90% of the time. So with the basics, which you HAVE TO REINFORCE BY PERSONAL PRACTICE OR IT'S MEANINGLESS, you can do a cool project that will get you employed easily. I know some IT people too that got their current job without having done any education: they just did projects they thought were interesting, and it caught the eye of their current employer.

avanstark1 karma

This person is right on the money ^

I would add that you need to keep an eye on the market, and you need to try to predict what people are going to need a lot of. E.g. lots of apps are moving to more immersive and interactive looking experiences. HTML5 for web.

Just look for no one else is doing and get REALLY fucking good at it.

RichardSolomonnn1 karma


avanstark1 karma

lol, yup

root_bear_rawr1 karma

Thanks for the AMA! I want to ask about a lot of stuff... especially coz you were roughly around my age when you were homeless. Right now, to me, you're like a traveller telling the stories of his adventures. Hahaha Is that too weird?

Anyway, I'm curious about this: When you used to live in the streets, what was the weirdest place you had to sleep in?

avanstark2 karma

My favorite place that I slept was at the beach. I know it's dangerous because of camp raiders and bugs, but FUCK.. it was such a beautiful experience. I slept in a sleeping bag with this really sweet guy from Oklahoma that was just passing through. We held each other, and it felt like I was waking up on an island. Waking up to the sound of the ocean killed a lot of my stress, and I wasn't as worried about my future. NATURE really helped me at the time.