McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Couple crosses country on foot to help homeless

  • It might not be 40 years in the desert, but Mike Pearson believes his cross-country trek was inspired by God.
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  • It might not be 40 years in the desert, but Mike Pearson believes his cross-country trek was inspired by God.
    Mike and his wife, Julie, set out on Feb. 20 from Port Hueneme, California, with bedrolls, a tent and some basic supplies, such as food, water and cooking supplies, strapped to two carts. Their goal is to travel by foot to New York by mid-October to raise awareness and money for the homeless.
    “God gave this to me in a dream a year ago,” Mike said when he and Julie stopped at a McPherson restaurant for lunch Monday afternoon. “I didn't want to tell Julie and expected her to say, ‘Have a good trip.’”
    However, Mike was surprised at how supportive his wife was. Not only did she encourage him to go, she offered to do it with him.
    “I just said, OK,” Julie said. “I didn't think twice.”
    The trip is called “Walk 3,000 miles in their shoes” and is intended to raise funds for the Pearsons to start a ranch to house and train people who are homeless with skills they need to obtain jobs.
    The Pearsons try to travel 15 to 20 miles each day, though Mike said their pace was slower than that at first. Their goal is to reach a beach in New York by mid-October, though they haven’t chosen which beach yet.
    “I hope it’s mid-October so the water isn't too cold,” Mike said.
    The supplies they carry depend on where they’re heading and how long its been since they resupplied. Mike said his cart weighed 300 pounds when he started. When they got to McPherson, it weighed about half that.
    “When we were going through the desert, I had 17 gallons of water,” Mike said. “That weighs quite a bit.”
    Getting out
    Mike said he’s well-acquainted with the homeless population in his hometown. He said he’s tried to help his homeless friends get of the street, only to watch them fall back into old habits.
    The Pearsons’ goal is to raise enough money to start a ranch for people who are homeless. This ranch will give people a place to stay and build skills that can help them find and keep steady jobs.
    “We’re hoping they can get back into the world with skills,” Mike said. “Some just need a stable place to call home.”
    Mike said he hopes to raise $4 million to purchase land and set up a ranch. However, he said he’ll work with what he has and build the ranch in stages if needed.
    Page 2 of 3 - “There’s a place we're looking at that would cost $2.5 million, and we could have homeless people help build the buildings,” Mike said. “It’ll allow them to get those skills and have a sense of community.”
    The ranch would include raising crops and livestock and other activities to help prepare homeless people for jobs in other places.
    So far, they have raised about $4,000. To donate or learn more about their travels, visit their Facebook page, “Walk 3000 miles in their shoes.”
    Becoming homeless
    To prepare for their trek, the Pearsons said they prayed a lot and paid off several debts. When the time was right, they left their jobs and gathered supplies for their cross-country journey.
    “It wasn’t so hard for Julie, because she didn’t really like her job,” Mike said. “I loved my job, though. I was making good money. I loved the job and people. God called me to give it up, so I did.”
    For the most part, the gear they carry is equipment a typical homeless person might have, though they do have some nicer cookware and carts. They do laundry whenever they reach a laundry.
    Saving lives
    Mike said the plight faced by many people who are homeless is one that shouldn’t exist in the United States. He said two years ago, one of his homeless friends spend some time in jail during winter. When he got out, he discovered his wife had frozen to death under a bridge without anyone noticing.
    “It’s senseless,” Mike said. “There’s no need in this country for anybody to be homeless unless they choose that.”
    Mike said homelessness isn’t always the result of laziness or substance abuse. Sometimes poor circumstances or medical emergencies can leave people without a roof over their heads.
    “I feel sorry for them,” Julie said. “If they really want to get out, they’ll do their best, but they need a chance for it to happen.”
    Mike said the very nature of homelessness is a barrier for people seeking jobs. A lack of home address, phone number and reliable transportation, as well as poor hygiene, can make it difficult for a person who is homeless to get off the street.
    Mike said people can help the homeless by volunteering at homeless shelters and being friendly to people who are homeless.
    “Always be respectful,” Mike said. “Say hi. Don't pretend they don't exist. It makes a world of difference for them and for you.”
    He said he and his wife have talked to a lot of people who are homeless on their journey as well as anyone else willing to learn about their cause.
    Page 3 of 3 - “It’s been an amazing walk,” Mike said. “I can’t wait to see what else God’s going to do with this.”
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