Vol. 15, No. 1 • November 2010

Fourteen-year-old Male, Homeless and Hungry

by Jeanne J. Preisler

One morning in late December 2009, in the comfort of his home in Nashville, singer/songwriter Jimmy Wayne’s mind flashed to when things were not so good. He remembered when he was 14, homeless and hungry. The memory is clear and he knows there are thousands of kids today in that same situation.

Jimmy Wayne survived a turbulent, abusive childhood. He was shuttled to a series of foster homes. He was a teen living by his wits on the street until a North Carolina couple named Russell and Beatrice Costner took him in and gave him a family. Before Russell and Bea, Jimmy was homeless and close to hopeless. He remembers vividly the feeling of being without a family, without a home.

One memory includes the kindness of a man behind the counter of the convenience store who gave him a honey bun and a Cheerwine when he asked for something to eat. One random day, a man just working his normal shift made a choice. He chose to give a 14-year-old kid some food. In turn, he gave that kid hope.

Back in his warm house, Jimmy thought, “I haven’t done anything this year to give back.” He immediately decided to do something bold. He decided to walk across America to raise awareness of the plight of homeless youth who have aged out of foster care with nowhere to go. He called the effort “Meet Me Halfway” because he wants all of us in America to help end teen homelessness. “I am asking you to meet me halfway,” Jimmy said, “by getting involved—donate money, adopt a kid, learn more about the foster child/foster parent program in your local community. There’s so much one person can do, and so many ways they can make a difference. It just takes one person to help someone to a better life.”

Seven months and 1,700 miles later, Jimmy finished his walk from Tennessee to Arizona. He shares some of the images from his journey…

  • The sting of crystallized snow blowing in my face.
  • The sunburn on my calves.
  • The blisters, bruises, and endless pain on the bottoms of my feet.
  • The smell of smog and sewage in the cities and greasy alleys.
  • The monuments, the neon lights.
  • The sirens. The rooster crowing.
  • The smell of cattle manure and wood burning stoves.
  • The dew in the cotton and corn fields.
  • The vast desert. The scarecrows.
  • The freedom of being alone.
  • The company of solitude.
  • The great, great, great people.
  • The true meaning of hospitality.

Jimmy began his journey on January 1, 2010 and finished on August 1. Less than five miles from the finish line, Jimmy shattered the back of his right ankle, but that didn’t stop him. With a brace on his leg, Jimmy pressed on to the finish line.

Now it’s our turn to continue his journey. Keep spreading the word about this critical issue and how we can make a difference.
To donate $10, text the word FOSTER to 85994. Visit www.projectmmh.org for more information.

Copyright 2010 Jordan Institute for Families