Homeless man shares story with ECG class

By Sarah Luckert
October 20, 2010

ECG 200, Solidarity in Action, had the opportunity to meet Robert Sherwin, a previous resident of Our Brothers Place. Sherwin told the emotional story of how he became
homeless and what he is willing to do to go back to the life he lived before. Sherwin entered the room filled with nervous but anxious feelings about telling his uncensored story to a class of college students. Robert Sherwin, 34, was living the life of a successful hairstylist working in Las Vegas for about $65 a haircut. Sherwin worked in high-end salons and also created his own business by cutting hair in his free time. Sherwin was making adequate money when he decided to move back to Philadelphia where he was originally from. In 2008, Sherwin owned his own apartment and lived on the money he made doing what he loved, cutting hair. On Monday, July 14, 2008, Sherwin was riding his
mountain bike through Fishtown when he was approached by four men. Two of the men had baseball bats.
“They literally beat me from my head to my toes,” Sherwin said. In those few seconds it took to knock Sherwin off of his bike, his whole life was turned upside down.

The accident took everything from Sherwin. He lost his job, apartment and money. It made him leave his independent life and forced him to live with his mother. Things took a turn for the worse when one morning Sherwin’s mother woke him up. “My mother’s husband and I never really got along,” Sherwin said. “She woke me up and told me I had 10 minutes to leave.” Sherwin and his mother never spoke again. “Everyone I thought was going to help didn’t,” Sherwin said. Leaving him with nothing to hold onto, Sherwin was forced to spend the next six weeks living underneath the Vine Street Bridge. Sherwin didn’t know how to be homeless so he did the only thing he could think of. “I followed other homeless people around,” Sherwin said. “I had to learn to be homeless because I had no other choice.” From making friends and learning the ropes, Sherwin found out about the Bethesda Project. From there, he entered himself into 10 months of staying at Our Brothers Place, a branch of the Bethesda Project. The damage from the accident left Sherwin with some physical and mental damage such as brain trauma and severe concussions, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and a phobia of going outside at night. “I think the worst part was when I put myself on suicide watch,” Sherwin said. “I knew I was in a position where I had hit rock bottom.” Speaking to the class was hard for Sherwin to do, but his struggle made the class understand the lessons that could be learned about judging the homeless without first knowing their story. Even though it was normal to be nervous, when Sherwin arrived in the class everyone was told how excited he was to allow people into his life. “I know I have an amazing story and if it can help others then I don’t mind telling it,” Sherwin said. “I really am a success story.” Since the accident, Sherwin has never missed a doctor’s appointment. He takes all of the medication that is

prescribed to him. Sherwin is currently enrolled in transitional housing through the Bethesda Project, which allows him to live on his own and still be able to ask for help when he needs it. Going from a top hairstylist to living under the Vine Street Bridge is not a story you hear about every day. It’s not a story that anyone would want to be theirs but it is the story of Sherwin. Some people take for granted everyday the life they have but that is not the case for Sherwin. “Believe me when I say this, my story is not over,”

Sherwin said. “There will be a happy ending.”

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Sarah Luckert

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