When one man was evicted from his home, he was forced to sell his belongings in the street. However, while his worldly possessions provided some clues as to his past, his identity remained a mystery. But then reporters discovered who he actually was.
In June 2017 one man in Memphis, Tennessee, was having a tough time. Authorities had evicted him from his house in the suburb of Binghampton after he fell behind on his rent payments.
The man in question claimed he and his landlord had had some disagreements. As a result, the pair had wound up in court. One of their biggest disputes stemmed from the fact the tenant owned over 20 feline friends.
“I love cats. I think cats are wonderful,” he later explained to WREG Memphis in June 2017. The man added that the animals had helped him through some of the toughest times in his life. However, his landlord refused to see his way of thinking.
Consequently, after nearly ten years at the property, the man found himself on the street. Furthermore, the Memphis Animal Shelter arrived to take his beloved cats into care. The organization later confirmed they had put the animals up for adoption.
Meanwhile, their former owner found himself on the street with all his possessions. To generate some money, he decided to sell his belongings on his one-time lawn. He only had a few days to shift the items. After that his landlord vowed to move him off the front of the house as well.
Having all his belongings out in the open for all to see was tough for the man. Among his most prized items were those that related to his art and his travels. “You kind of get goosebumps,” he said. “It’s like looking at something for the first time, when you haven’t seen them in a while.”
With nowhere to go or store his stuff, the man was in dire straits. However, his desperate situation hadn’t gone unnoticed by his neighbors. As a result, they did all they could to help. “They’ve been really generous,” he admitted.
Before long, local news outlets picked up the man’s story. He told reporters he didn’t know what would happen to him in the coming weeks. And his story touched the hearts of all those who saw it.
Among those to hear about the elderly man’s plight was Joan Channell. Channell recognized the guy from her time at Memphis Technical High School. His name was Titus Blade Steele and he was one of her old classmates.
However, Steele was no ordinary high school student. He had been one of the first African-American children to attend Memphis Technical High School. Furthermore, his classmates remembered him as a talented artist.
Steele had also experienced hard times in his life. Among the items on his lawn was a newspaper article documenting his brother’s murder. “That was one of the saddest days of my life because my brother and I were so close,” Steele revealed.
And it seemed Channell wasn’t Steele’s only former schoolmate to recognize him on the news. Someone else shared the WREG Memphis news story to an alumni social media group. Soon, the post had caught the attention of many former students who wanted to help Steele.
So, in July 2016, Channell arranged to meet Steele. With her, she brought along a series of letters and notes for Steele from their former classmates. It was a gesture that the man appreciated. “Wow, letters from everybody,” he said as he flicked through the pile.
The kind words came from some people that Steele hadn’t seen in decades. However, it was clear to see the artist had left a lasting impression on many of his former school friends. And their letters came when Steele needed them the most.
One of them recalled the significance Steele held as one of the first African-American students at their desegregated school. “With your warm and cheerful smile, you broke down barriers and made friends that will last a lifetime,” the missive said.
Another, read by Channell for a report by WREG in 2017, paid homage to Steele’s character. “We all appreciate your courage, your talent and your amazing personality,” the encouraging letter said.
And heartfelt words weren’t the only thing Channell brought for Steele. Given his situation, his classmates wanted to do something practical to help him in his hour of need. So, they began collecting donations.
By the time Channell went to meet Steele, his classmates had raised around $1,500. And their kindness astounded the animal lover. “It’s generous and I feel like I could cry,” he told reporters.
Thanks to his old friends’ generosity, Steele could finally feel positive about his future. He moved in with his sister but has plans to open a cat shelter in the future. He also planned to attend his high school reunion, where he no doubt got to thank his kind classmates in person.