WASHINGTON — Even for a man who has no computer or smart phone — never mind a roof over his head — the power of social media can be profound and potentially life changing.
After seeing CNN’s story Friday on Charles Gladden — a man who works in the Senate cafeteria but lives on the streets — Nathan Morris, the co-founder of musical group Boyz II Men, started an online call to arms to help.
Using a crowd-funding site “Go Fund Me,” Morris urged people to make a donation in order to help Gladden find housing.
“As many of you know I’m not a big social media guy due to the constant championing of negative and even sometimes evil content shared, but this story really touched my heart and is a [perfect] example of how we can easily lose sight of what really matters in life,” Morris wrote.
He set a goal of $20,000 to help Gladden “find a place to live and get him back on the right path,” and promised to personally donate $10,000 of that from his foundation, Boyz II Men House.
Morris started the campaign on Saturday, and raised nearly $5,000 from 66 people in one day.
Gladden told CNN his story last week, saying “I work for the most powerful people in the country and there I am sleeping at a subway stop,” Gladden said, while standing in the shadow of the Capitol dome.
For 8 years he has worked in Senate cafeterias, washing dishes and doing janitorial work.
“I just sweep, clean the bathroom, that type of stuff,” he said.
He has no shower, so he uses the sink in the bathroom to give himself what he calls a “birdbath.”
“I’m working around food. I can’t go in there smelling, and I cant go in there dirty,” he said, pointing to the Capitol.
Gladden, 63, makes about $11 an hour, and takes home about $360 a week. But he said he gives a lot of it to his children and grandchildren, who have their own financial troubles.
“I take care of them,” he says, “I don’t want to be a burden on my kids.”
When asked about his colleagues who make the same salary, but can still afford housing, Gladden said he realizes that his predicament is exacerbated because he chooses to give money to his children. But it’s also because he suffers from diabetes, and his deteriorating health has meant missing work without pay, he said. He has even had three toes amputated because of his disease, which went untreated for a long time.
Almost no one at the Capitol had a clue Gladden was homeless, until he went public as part of a one-day strike by federal contractors demanding $15 dollars an hour, what they call a livable wage.
“If it happened to me it could happen to someone else,” he said.
“I’m an embarrassment. I don’t want to be an embarrassment to this country, the country I was born and raised in,” he said.