The Hobo Hammocks Story (Homeless by choice)!

Hammocks on the backstop softball fieldHi there! I’m Jake, the man who started this camping hammock shindig to help the homeless! I enjoy keeping myself busy. VERY busy. Apart from selling hammocks, I’m also currently attending dental school. It’s not a cheap endeavor, both in terms of time and money. However, I’ve been passionate about hammocking for a many years, and there has been an entrepreneurial seed in my heart for as long as I can remember, so when the opportunity came I couldn’t stop myself from starting this company.

Last summer, while studying for the National Board Dental Exams, a friend and I decided to live out of our hammocks so we could save up some money to travel to Thailand. We found an abandoned softball field and clipped our hammocks in to the chainlink fence on the backstop. Each day brought new surprises and stories.  I remember one morning in particular, it was time to get up. My buddy reached out of his hammock to grab his pants, and about 500 moths swarmed out of his pants and flew around him. For the rest of the day he kept finding more moths. In his shoes. In his motorcycle helmet. It was crazy! We were pretty bummed out that we didn’t catch it on video as we had been documenting a good amount of our adventure

One of the most difficult Hobo soup Hobo Hammocksparts of being homeless was finding a place to shower every day. Remember, we are dental students, and dental schools aren’t typically too welcoming of students who smell like nature… Some days we found friends’ houses to shower at. Other days we used disposable wash cloths in the bathrooms at our school to clean up. I was surprised at how much time got eaten by these trivial to-dos that we take advantage of when we have a home to do them in.

For our meals, we stored a few cans of Progresso soup in the back of our cars. It was so incredibly hot outside that our black cars acted as microwave ovens. We would pull a can out of the trunk, flip the tab and eat it all up. On several occasions when we were feeling super loaded, we would go to Kneaders for an all-you-can-eat French Toast breakfast. A $6 meal of 10 French Toast usually got us through the day!

While we got a ton of good laughs and fun experiences from our awesome little adventure, it really caused my mind to stir. I began thinking about the people who were permanently homeless. What was stopping them from changing their circumstance? I reasoned that they should find jobs, or at least relocate to more live-able climates. After all, I thought, anybody can get a job!

Hobo Hammocks helping hungry homeless

Eventually my curiosity got the best of me. I determined that I must meet some homeless people and find out what they are all about. I was so incredibly fascinated by the homeless culture and I thought that everyone else should be, too. One fateful Friday night, I found a pretty sweet girl and took her on our first date. Our destination? A park in Salt Lake City that is a bit famous for harboring the homeless (It is probably becoming more apparent why I am a single man). We ventured into the dark, creepy park, bringing with us enough donuts and hot chocolate to feed about 12 of them, and then, we listened.

I asked what kept them in Salt Lake City, a place where the summer sun brought the pavement to a boil under their bare feet, and where winter winds could literally take your breath away. Their answers blew me away. “I stay so I can visit my kids that live with their mother just 10 minutes away from here.” “My mother is in a rest home just around the corner. She needs someone to check on her.” Each took their turn to talk about their families and how important it was to stay close to them. I was talking to real people who had a lot of love in their hearts. I suddenly could see a logical explanation for why they kept themselves in such a terrible situation. They weren’t mindlessly loitering in a park and town that had nothing to offer them. They were hanging around for their FAMILIES!

But if they had family so close to them, why weren’t they living with them? The answer to this question didn’t take long to present itself. While they had families that were quite obviously very important to them, almost all of my homeless friends also had mental disabilities. Some were veterans who had suffered injuries leaving them incapacitated. Some had been in the wrong place at the time. Others had been in horrible, nasty, car accidents. Whatever their story, they all had one thing in common. Their injuries had left them incapable of work, and not mentally stable enough to support or be with their families permanently. It’s hard to explain in words what I learned that night, but I was no longer judging homeless people. I just wanted to make their situation a little better.

The idea of starting a hammock company came several months prior, but  I realized that night that I could use the company to do some serious good!

This was motivation enough to get me pushing things along, and I assure you I am PUSHING! I make dozens of mistakes every single day, but each mistake teaches me something new that I otherwise never would have learned. I don’t know what’s coming next, but I do know that it’s going to be awesome! I’ve never been so passionate about anything in my life!