Drew Goodall hadn’t always been roughing it out on the streets. He was only in his twenties when his acting career, unfortunately, began to fail. He slowly stopped getting the roles he wanted until eventually there were none at all. The London-based CEO had been a rising star at the time, but things went down south quickly. Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, he was forced to take to the streets. He couldn’t even afford to keep a roof over his head.
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain
Fast-forward many years later, he came back for those who are still in his former shoes. Drew is now the CEO of Sunshine Shoeshine, a shoe cleaning company that rakes in a major £250,000 every year, and employs only those experiencing homelessness . His goal is to help pull as many out of that dark hole he was once in .
We rise by lifting others
Speaking to BBC stories, Drew talks about how a guy who used to walk past him every day helped him get off the ground and onto his feet. He’d suffered tremendously out there on the streets, enduring the biting London cold and even getting battered by violent creeps every now and then.
“At least in my experience, being homeless was something that happened to other people,” he said. “It’s the person you see sleeping outside the tube station. It’s not something that you directly think, ‘This is gonna happen to me.’ There was a guy who used to walk past quite a lot. He said, ‘There are people who work in the City of London and they clean shoes.’ And he said, ‘Maybe you could do that.’ And I thought, ‘Yeah, you know I could do that.’ I mean it’s some brushes and some polishes and it’s really not expensive to do.“
It wasn’t easy for Drew at first. He didn’t have an office or any workspace. His practice was literally considered illegal in London. He could have been arrested for breaking ‘hawking laws.’ All he was doing was cleaning shoes for busy workers who strode past his sleeping corner.
Luck shined on Drew when one of his regulars offered him a working space in his office lobby. Drew was able to stop hiding from the police and work freely and comfortably at that point. He earned a reasonable amount of money and was able to get himself off the streets.
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From grass to grace
After many years of hard work, dedication, and determination, Drew was able to turn Sunshine Shoeshine into a successful company. He now has several locations around London with many employees on his payroll.
The most significant thing about Drew’s story is that he hires only the homeless and the disadvantaged to work for him. He never forgets where he came from and the horrors he lived through. He offers a helping hand to others who are suffering the same horrid fate, a chance to better their lives and find some purpose.
One of Drew’s beneficiaries, Alan, who suffers from poor mental health and sight says the job has been saving grace to him.
“It has given me a point, a purpose,” Alan said. “It has made me feel more confident, it has made me feel more like a person. Having a job and a work history, it has given me a bit of a future which I didn’t really have. Sunshine has given me a work history. They’ve clarified that I am articulate, and with skills and abilities, and that’s what an employer wants to see when they see a C.V.”
It’s amazing how Alan’s life took a turnaround once he got employed. He’s great at his job and plans to seek higher heights in the near future.
The world would be a better place if there were more people like Drew.
Drew doesn’t blame others for being quick to judge the homeless. He believes the wrong lies in being aware that the disadvantaged struggle and yet we do nothing to help them get on their feet. That’s what’s utterly unfair, according to Drew’s philosophy.
He lives a comfortable, happy life now, and he finds fulfillment in the fact that he’s helping others in whose condition he once lived.
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