IMPACT
08/04/2014 06:34 pm ET | Updated Aug 04, 2014

Navy Vet Turned Teacher Simulates Homelessness For A Month To Raise Awareness, Funds

Thomas Rebman said spending a month living as if he were homeless was the hardest thing he has ever done -- a profound statement coming from a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

The 53-year-old Florida middle school teacher spent a month on the streets and in shelters in Orlando to raise awareness on the crisis, according to WFTV Channel 9. But he ended up learning a lot, too.

"Every myth that I thought about homelessness was busted," Rebman told Channel 9. "They’re not all drug addicts. As a matter of fact, there’s less drug users in the homeless community than there is in society."

Rebman, who spent days without showering and lost about 20 pounds throughout the challenge, created a Facebook page to further his mission and raise funds toward Second Harvest Food Bank, Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Orange County Public Schools. So far, Rebman's raised more than $4,000, according to the Orlando Sentinel. He also documented his experience on camera and uploaded the videos to YouTube.

"It has been hell," Rebman told the Orlando Sentinel, noting the difficulty in finding adequate work to survive (without using his professional background). The most reliable source of income was selling his plasma -- the portion of the blood in which red and white blood cells and platelets are suspended -- a couple times a week for $25 to $50 per visit.

Rebman's mission to raise awareness on homelessness in the Sunshine State is an important one. On a single night in January 2013, Florida had nearly 48,000 homeless individuals, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Last December, it was ranked the most dangerous state for homeless people by the National Coalition for the Homeless. In 2012, Florida had more than double the number of hate crimes against homeless people than California, the runner-up.

Rebman said he's determined to challenge the status quo.

"I know we'll make a difference," he told the Orlando Sentinel before he completed the month. "And I know now that I can make it the rest of the way. I can't be known as the teacher who quit."

To learn more about how you can contribute to Rebman's efforts, visit his Facebook page.

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