Brenda Combs’ life is drastically different now compared to what it was like years ago. She went from being homeless with a drug addiction to earning college and master’s degrees. Combs then went on to create and run a foundation that helps the homeless.
Combs grew up in a middle-class family in Northern Arizona. She started hanging out with a bad crowd and eventually dropped out of high school. That’s when her life changed for the worse: she started doing drugs and became homeless. While living on the streets she was beaten, shot and raped.
Her rock bottom came when someone stole her shoes. It was walking barefoot under the Arizona sun that helped her decide to turn her life around.
Combs went into rehab to overcome her drug addiction and eventually moved into a halfway house. From there, Combs furiously pursued a mission to undo her past transgressions. She graduated from college and earned a master’s degree, and was also granted a full scholarship for a Ph.D. in education from Grand Canyon University. She simultaneously held down three jobs while raising her son, including teaching at a school near her childhood neighborhood.
While improving her life, Combs never forgot her time as a homeless woman. After using her own funds to distribute hygiene packs and cards with information on social services to the homeless, Combs founded Finding My Shoes, a non-profit aimed at helping those in need.
Brenda Combs is making history as … a living example of someone who turned her life around and is using her experience to help others. Through Finding My Shoes, Combs and her husband have opened two sober living residential homes to help those struggling with addiction. Her work has been nationally recognized on NBC’s The Today Show and on CNN. First lady Laura Bush also personally congratulated Combs for earning her master’s degree.
What’s next for Brenda?
Combs continues to run her foundation and gives motivational talks all over the country as Grand Canyon University’s Ambassador of Inspiration and Achievement.
A little-known fact about homelessness …
“Homeless people often face insurmountable barriers to obtaining health care, including addictive disorder treatment services and recovery supports,” according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
For more information about Finding My Shoes, THE”>click here GRIO’S Q & A TIME WITH BRENDA COMBS
Q: What’s next for you in this chapter of your life?
A: I want to share my dissertation research on overcoming homelessness with society on a global scale. Our strategy is to eradicate homelessness in the U.S. first. America sets the stage for the rest of the world, and conquering this issue domestically will encourage the world’s audience to take notice. On that journey, I would like to expand the Finding My Shoes foundation and Making Things Better Sober Living residences to assist individuals and families who are in need.
Q: What’s a fact about you that many people don’t know?
A: My days of living on the streets and sleeping outside in darkness have left an impression in many ways. For one thing, I am driven to succeed because I never want to be homeless again. I’m scared of going back to the streets, so I work all of the time to ensure that my family and I are never in that situation again. And one thing still lingers from my homeless days — I am slightly afraid of the dark.
Q: What’s your favorite quote?
A: “Make the right choice and do the right thing, even when no one is watching.”
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
A: My son, Mycole, is the love of my life. He sees the good in everything and everybody. He always wants to help and provide for others. He inspires me to want to give more, do more and be more. I am also motivated by the homeless communities. I feel that it is my duty to make their lives better, and as long as people are homeless, I need to do more to ensure that homelessness ends in America.
Q: Who are/were your mentors?
A: My parents are my mentors. They taught me to love others, trust in God, believe in myself, and to always treat others with love and respect. I am a firm believer in following the golden rule and never expecting anything in return from others.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to achieve their dreams?
A: I encourage people to begin by first looking at themselves in the mirror and seeing who they are. Start by telling themselves that they are intelligent and capable of achieving greatness. They have to actually say the words:
“I believe in myself and my ability to do my best. I am intelligent and I am capable of achieving greatness. I can learn, I will learn, I must learn. Today I will think, I will listen and I will reason. Today I will make the best choices, and my life will be a reflection of those choices. Today I will read, I will write, and I will learn to work with love, and value others. I won’t give up when to give up would be easier, because I am too smart to waste today and life is too precious to do it any other way. So for today, I will make the right choice and do the right thing, even when no one is watching.”