A young homeless man’s heartbreaking story prompted a trio of good Samaritans in Los Angeles to drive him over 2,000 miles back to his home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to start rebuilding his life.
It all started when they came across a photo on Facebook of the homeless man living on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. His face was filled with anguish.
Photographer John Hwang had stopped to speak to Sang D. Yang on Oct. 11 and had snapped a portrait of Sang looking distraught, wearing a disheveled hoodie and a disposable mask under his chin. He later shared the photo on Facebook.
“I met this young man today,” Hwang explained. “He was crying, telling me, ‘I can’t change the things I’ve done, but I want to be better.’”
Sang, who is of Hmong descent, explained that his mother passed away several years ago, and he had since lost contact with his surviving family members. Rendered homeless, he’d had most of his personal belongings stolen on the street, including his wallet, identification, and cell phone.
“He wants to get off the street and reconnect with his family again,” Hwang shared. “Not sure how I can best help him, but if anyone can provide assistance in some way please let me know.”
After the photo was posted online, Los Angeles resident Daniel Lee took notice and was compelled to step in. He cited a Hmong proverb, loosely translated into English.
“When you come into my town, call me … let me know that you’re here, and I’ll take care of you,” Lee explained in an interview with KABC. “I guess that’s the closest way of defining how I felt.”
Lee teamed up with two other members of the Los Angeles Hmong community (an Asian ethnic group dispersed mainly to southern China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar) and drove downtown in search of Sang.
They found him, treated him to a meal, and listened to his story. “Found him!” Lee posted on Facebook on Oct. 12. “A few other Hmong brothers and I have found him and are trying to find a way to contact family. But first: food!”
Moved by Yang’s plight, Lee and his fellows drove over 2,000 miles to help Sang reconnect with his estranged family in Wisconsin.
“It’s not just somebody who’s homeless, it’s somebody who’s lost,” Lee explained.
Lee also contacted the Hmong American Friendship Association in Milwaukee, who agreed to connect Sang to the support and services to help him get back on his feet.
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