‘Empathy goes a long way’ | Homeless man finds his life completely changed thanks to a stranger

  • Homeless man with cot

LIVINGSTON – What started as an attempt to simply get rid of a piece of furniture on Facebook Marketplace has now united a homeless man living in the woods to a family helping him get back on his feet.

The story begins when Amanda Wallace, who lives in Watson in Livingston Parish, posted a cot for sale on Facebook marketplace.

“CJ wrote me a message on there, and he said, ‘Don’t suppose you would bring this to Port Allen and take $20 for it?’,” Wallace tells UWK. “And so I said, ‘Are you asking me to bring it all the way to Port Allen and take $5 less for it?’ And he said, ‘Pretty much’.”

“I would have normally stopped at ‘Port Allen is too far’, but then something just came over me majorly, and said, ‘You need to help him. You need to ask him why he needs this cot’,” she said.

Clinton James, also known as ‘CJ’, 32, is who reached out to her for the cot. He told UWK that he lives in the woods in Port Allen.

“I’m homeless and I’m in a tent, and I’m trying to get off the ground,” James tells UWK.

“And whenever he said the words, ‘I’m trying to get off the ground,’ something even more came over me. I literally took those words as God saying, ‘You’re going to help him get off the ground. He needs help’.”

Wallace went on to tell UWK, from that moment she knew she was going to help this homeless man. She then posted on her Facebook page asking anyone who would like to help this man, to Venmo her. A day later she had raised $500 for him.

Hairdresser Candace Archibald cutting CJ’s hair

“My Venmo started going off like crazy,” she said and added that so many people in Wallace’s community were ready to help.

“My husband and I went shopping until midnight at Academy and went and got him an outside shower. One of my friends had a solar shower, where the sun heats it up from the outside. We got him new shirts, new socks, new shoes, new work shoes,” Wallace continued.

Since he lived in the woods, Wallace said she did not plan on going any further than the wood line to bring James the cot, but again, something came over her. So she and her husband went into the woods where James was staying. That was when she decided she was going to do everything she could to help him.

“The biggest threat to someone that is homeless is actually other homeless people”

James explained to UWK how he became a homeless man. “I was in the Army for about eight years as a medic. I got out in 2018 and started becoming a bail bondsman, mostly bail enforcement. I got into hotel management. Shortly after that, I ran a series of hotels in Mobile, Alabama.”

James was living in Baton Rouge prior to his unemployment but knew he couldn’t stay there without a place to live.

“I did not want to be homeless in Baton Rouge, because the homeless community out there is rather aggressive.”

April of 2024 was when James made the switch to life in the wilderness.

“Last year, I made probably $70,000 and just a couple of bad luck mistakes really had landed me over here in a situation that I could not easily recover from, because I had no support system,” James continued.

“I had this little instant deploy tent thing that was really ragged and in feathers, and I had to pack up my bedroll in trash bags every night to stop it from being rained on.”

James tells UWK some of the ways he survived in the woods. “I had two gallon jugs that I would walk about three quarters of a mile up to Dollar General to go fill from their spigot, and I would use those to drink and shower and help my dog and everything.”

James went on to describe some of the difficulties he faced living in the woods. “During my brief stay in the woods, I developed a tooth abscess and had to give myself a root canal. That was not enjoyable, but that was like the level of support I was receiving prior to miss Amanda’s involvement.”

James explained how Wallace’s kindness has impacted his life. “She had known me for 48 hours and invited me to the Fourth of July party with her family.”

“He’s not a person with his hand out trying to take. He really is trying hard in life”

“My motto is, I would have never helped you any further if you weren’t helping yourself. I told him, I have a homeless sister right now, but I don’t help because she doesn’t help herself, and I’m only helping someone who helps himself, and this guy is helping himself,” Wallace shared.

James is now living in a shop building, still in a tent, but now with air conditioning, running water, and power. He now has job opportunities and hopes to stay in the Watson area; however, he says he will always stay in touch with Amanda Wallace and thanks her for saving his life.

“I know that this guy is going to be very successful. I cannot wait to see him in six months, I feel like he’s going to be soaring, like in the sky, like straight uphill.”

Anyone wishing to donate towards CJ can donate to Wallace’s Venmo as that’s the only account set up for him to receive financial help: @amanda-wallace-08

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