Most people have no idea I was homeless.

I tried not to tell them. I didn’t want them to think my vision was wild and unsustainable. My co-founder and I didn’t take salaries for over a year, in order to pour more of our donations into the field. But nine months into bootstrapping our nonprofit, my credit card maxed out.

I threw my stuff into storage and trekked around NYC with one suitcase, a printer/scanner combo and coffeemaker.  My "few months" on couches quickly turned into ten. I thought it would be grueling. It turned into the best decision I’ve ever made.

In forcing me to ask others for help, I was overwhelmed by hospitality and friendship. And showered with a kindness that I can never quite repay.

Here’s 14 of the places I’ve stayed:

1. STACY POMMER’S – West 72nd Street -Stacy lives in a posh upper west side apartment, across from The Dakota on 72nd. She also happens to have a visual impairment, so we were ready with excuses if her condo board ever complained about her squatter on the 15th floor. As it turns out, my role as her “visual aid” only came in handy for reading the score of the football games, who is voted off on The Bachelor, and pasting a fake snake tattoo on her back so she can prank her friends at her birthday party. If you ever want to see your friends squirm, have a visually impaired girl ask them if her new tattoo of a hideous (and huge) cobra looks fantastic.

1. STACY POMMER’S – West 72nd Street -Stacy lives in a posh upper west side apartment, across from The Dakota on 72nd. She also happens to have a visual impairment, so we were ready with excuses if her condo board ever complained about her squatter on the 15th floor. As it turns out, my role as her “visual aid” only came in handy for reading the score of the football games, who is voted off on The Bachelor, and pasting a fake snake tattoo on her back so she can prank her friends at her birthday party. If you ever want to see your friends squirm, have a visually impaired girl ask them if her new tattoo of a hideous (and huge) cobra looks fantastic.

2. PEACE CORP’S 50th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, Washington DC. Two weeks after my credit card maxed out, the Peace Corp Association called and announced that I had won a writing contest, worth $5,000. I just had to pick up the check at their gala. My younger cousin happened to be in DC that weekend for work and was able to sneak me into her room at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. I have never been in the Peace Corp, but when you are desperate, you enter any contest possible. I lived off the $5,000 grant for 8 months.

3. THE SANDERS. 100th Street and Riverside Drive, NYC. Carrie and I used to work together at charity: water. Now, she is on our board and the proud mom of two little boys.

4. THE STRAWS. Lafayette, California. Home at my parents’ house for a wedding. Laid in bed wishing my 31-year-old self could tell my 13-year-old self, “One day, you’ll regret begging dad to buy this freaking futon bunk bed!”

8. FORT LAUDERDALE AIRPORT. While on the west coast, a Primetime TV news network asked if I could meet them in Haiti to shoot our stove campaign. I took a red eye to NYC to get my passport, and another to get to Haiti. To save money I slept under a row of airport seats. Not gonna lie, this wasn’t the best idea I've ever had.

8. FORT LAUDERDALE AIRPORT. While on the west coast, a Primetime TV news network asked if I could meet them in Haiti to shoot our stove campaign. I took a red eye to NYC to get my passport, and another to get to Haiti. To save money I slept under a row of airport seats. Not gonna lie, this wasn’t the best idea I've ever had.

10. THE EX’s BACHELOR PAD, Upper West Side, NYC. An ex found out I was homeless and offered his apartment while he was at Davos. Apparently, last year he was “too busy” with his new job to continue dating, but not too busy to purchase some new “art.”

11. SOCIAL MEDIA WEEK WITH NOKIA, London, United Kingdom. Nokia flew me to London to speak as a "social innovator." Over a fancy dinner they asked if I would be interested in a potential partnership. I didn’t mention that my suitcase was full of Snickers bars, so that I wouldn’t have to spend any money eating while I was there.

12. ALEX ABELIN, East 13th Street, NYC. Alex was a Community Relations Manager for Google. Little did Alex know that being a “Community Manager” also meant housing all of the broke social entrepreneurs in his community.

I’m taking a small salary now, and on Friday I moved off Stacy’s couch. In a windfall of irony, ten friends and I rented a place in the Hamptons for June, just as a friend had her place open up in the east village. So now I have two places to live this month. I went from wheeling all my stuff up and down subway stairs like a sweaty hermit crab, to now taking conference calls on the beach.

Last Friday night I met a guy who said, “I think our generation is more interested in experiences and friendships. We’re not striving to get rich and attain more than ‘the Jones’. Our focus is on living and working for causes we care about.”  He added, ” I’m totally broke. But I love my life.”

Ironically, he happened to be telling me that as we stood in Adrian Greenier’s kitchen, as Adrian grilled-up steak for 50 “fearless” NYCers, as the invitation stated.

I looked around the room, filled with some of the most interesting and well, “fearless” people I am lucky enough to know and I said, “Ha. Me too.”

Fortunately broke.

Comment