Detroit, MI – July 2012 – DETROIT (WJBK) -
He is a talented jazz musician turned advocate for the homeless. He hit the snowy streets of Detroit with the clothes on his back and seven bucks to experience homelessness firsthand, probably never dreaming he might actually find himself in that situation.
O’Neal continued to compose and perform, but scaled back so he could lead the DO Foundation, his homeless advocacy organization on Woodward Avenue in Detroit where they help so many people get back on their feet like Michelle Deciantis, a client and longtime volunteer.
“There [are] homeless people that live on the streets of the City of Detroit that depend on the DO Foundation,” she said.
An all volunteer organization, they don’t rely on government grants, don’t deal with the red tape, just donations and O’Neal’s income. It hasn’t been easy. DO Foundation was burglarized more than once, wiped out, but still they persevered.
Times are hard. Donations have dwindled, and O’Neal, who spent so much of his own money just to keep DO Foundation going, was faced with a very difficult decision — lose the organization or his own home.
“I would feel like a complete failure if DO Foundation were to close their doors. I wouldn’t want to let down the people that we service.”
So he gave up his townhouse in Novi and is now living with his family at a motel. He plans to spend the next 45 days composing and recording his new CD, which will be called “Do Something”.
“Hoping and praying … that CD takes off. If I get at least once hit song from there, we’ll be able to open at least two other DO Foundation offices,” O’Neal said.
As for his current situation, living in a motel, O’Neal is trying not to think about it.
“We consider ourselves doers, so the more we do, the better things are for you mentally, emotionally,” he said. “When I come into the office every day and see the clients that walk in frowning and leaving smiling, that’s all I need. That confirms that decision.”
To learn more or donate to the DO Foundation visit www.dofoundation.net.
From the desk of our President Brian O’Neal:
Being the founder & chairman of DO Foundation (a nonprofit that helps homeless people) and a homeless advocate I’m now faced with homelessness today. The irony is almost laughable.
I’ve spent 90% of my earnings from my music career for 2 years to pay for the existence of DO Foundation (the building lease, phone lines, internet, office supplies and food for the staff whom are all volunteers). My earnings can no longer keep up with those expenses, the welfare of me and my family and trying to maintain my music career as an independent artist.
This morning I was faced with deciding between myself becoming homeless or closing DO Foundation. With great thought I’ve chosen to go homeless. Deep in my soul I feel it is more important to continue helping those who are in far worse positions than myself (ie: women, children, entire families, and those with absolutely no support).
The feeling I have is not that of sadness or pity, nor does my pride feel diminished. This is a decision I will deal with. Will it be a little rough on me and my family? Of course. But we’re tough. We all know we’re on a mission and all of this is part of it. The word “temporary” rings loud in my head. I still think – how ironic!
This note is not a call to rescue me or feel sorry for me. I don’t feel shameful nor failure. It’s totally clear to me that all of this is truly part of the massive mission I have in life to help others. I see advantages of what otherwise seems like misfortune and disadvantage: I’m in the middle of composing songs for my new music cd & its more ammo for writing music based on my life and all my experiences. Even though my entire music studio will end up in a storage unit somewhere I’ll still be able to create & compose. When I reflect back on my previous works (music) I realize that I actually did a heck of lot more with heck of lot less. If you have my previous music you’ll hear the difference with the new project for sure :).
I’m going to carefully document our temporary homelessness. What I see happening is DO Foundation becoming better, me becoming better, my family stronger, better!