Stubble: What’s your story?
Eric: My name is Eric and I come out here and I sing gospel to help homeless men and women get a bed at the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center. I’ve been doing this for a little over a year and a half and I just really enjoy what I do – getting out and helping people less fortunate than we are.
I was homeless 10 years ago. I lived underneath the Basilica bridge. It was channel 9, Fox 9 News, that actually drove by and saw me in 25 below zero weather. They came by and said, you know, “what are you doing in a sleeping bag with the walls all iced up?” I said that I was just being stubborn. I don’t really want to go in the shelter because I’d made a home out here. I was in the service so I know how to survive on the street. I was fueled by crack-cocaine, that was my addiction on the street. When you’re homeless you feel like there’s no hope in your life. You feel like no one cares about what you’re doing and you can’t get out of that situation. It was a group of kids from the University of Minnesota that walked up to me one day and took me in when they were freshman and for four years they loved on me. They helped me get into Teen Challenge and I did 15 months in Teen Challenge and that’s what changed my life.
Stubble: How do you get back out here busking?
Eric: You know, it’s your heart. You’ve got to have a good heart in order to help people. I mean, there were people that helped me get to where I’m at today. I have a home in South Minneapolis, I have everything that I could possibly want so why shouldn’t I give back to the people less fortunate than I am who are still actually living out here. I’ve been there, I know how hard it is even just to ask someone for a dollar. People look at homeless individuals like they’re at the bottom, just a piece of crap. You could sit right here with me and I could talk to 20 or 30 people and you could see how they treat me. They don’t realize that I’m not homeless anymore.
Stubble: Your experience, what do you wish people knew?
Eric: Not every homeless people are addicts. There are people out here to busk just to get by, who are really working to get their lives back on track. They go down to county and get $203 every month and they’re just trying to find a way to survive with that. The only thing I’d tell people is to have a humble heart because it could happen to you. We had a family who lost their home down in Roseville, an $85K home that went up in flames because they left lint in the dryer. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, nobody knows even what the next second will bring. Yesterday’s gone, tomorrow’s not here, so you’ve got to live for today.
Stubble: Tell me about the music you’re singing.
Eric: I’m doing gospel, Christian songs. I just enjoy them so much and I think they enlighten people’s hearts, whether they’re into it or not. Some people stop and think I’m crazy sitting here singing this little light of mine, but I’m just thinking you know it’s a beautiful day here, maybe a little chilly, but in our hearts we all have a light that shines no matter what. Even at maybe the lowest point of their lives, homeless people have a light that shines and sometimes people don’t see it. And they fuel that with alcohol and drugs to try to get by because they feel like there’s no light, no hope, there’s nothing so that’s what I’m singing. Just trying to bring some encouragement to people’s lives.
Eric Miles is a soldier with the Salvation Army who busks on his own time to buy beds for the homeless in Minneapolis.