Teacher lives among homeless to create awareness

By Cait McVey, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, January 15, 2015, 5:06 PM EST

Tom Rebman, a U.S. Navy veteran of 23 years, carries all of his belongings in the bag on his back.

“I have a jacket," Rebman said, while sifting through his backpack. "I have a couple of extra pairs of socks and then some shirts, and that’s pretty much it. Along with my blanket -- I found it on the street.”

Rebman considers it a lucky find. After stopping by a homeless shelter in Tampa Thursday morning, he learned there may not be enough room for him, meaning he may have to sleep outside.

“I have a big trash bag that’s all the way down at the bottom and I put the trash bag up over me if it starts raining,” Rebman said.

It sounds like a dire situation, but for Rebman, it’s not.

That’s because he isn’t really homeless. 

He’s actually a middle school teacher from Orlando, embarking on his third Homelessness Awareness Campaign.

Rebman will spend the next month traveling through several different Florida cities, as though he has no place to live. He will get his meals at soup kitchens and spend his nights at homeless shelters.

Along the way, Rebman will also stop at local businesses to see if he can find work. 

According to Rebman, he’s usually told no. He said he’s lucky if they even let him stay long enough to use the restroom.

“It makes me feel demeaned, sad, upset,” said Rebman. “It’s the hardest part of homelessness.”

It’s like the old saying, “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” 

Rebman is doing just that and already, he said his feet are tired.

“What I need more than a meal, a bed or a blanket is somebody to care about me,” he said.  “And a hug.”

Rebman will stay in the Bay area for the next week before heading on to another city.  At the end of his campaign, Rebman said he plans to rate each city on how they treat the homeless.