Walking for teen homelessness Musician wants to bring awareness to their problem
"A heavy backpack isn't going to raise awareness," he said. "The blisters on my feet aren't going to raise awareness."
Wayne hopes the publicity of his walk will raise awareness. He was joined by several fans and supporters as we walked from Beacon Baptist Church, 417 S. McMasters St., to Hastings at 2020 S. Georgia St. Wayne performed a two-song acoustic set at Hastings to celebrate reaching the halfway mark of his journey.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates 1 million to 1.5 million teenagers are homeless at least once each year, according to the organization's Web site. Those statistics do not include 18- or 19-year-olds.
Maj. Tim Grider with the Salvation Army in Amarillo said the homeless shelter has experienced an 11.7 percent jump in the number of 15- to 17-year-olds seeking shelter there.
Girder said since Oct. 1, 38 teenagers have stayed at the shelter. Three teenagers stayed at the shelter during the same time frame last year, he said.
"No parent. No guardian. Nothing," he said. "They can't go back home or they don't want to go back home, so they come to us."
For Wayne, the issue hits close to home.
Wayne, a product of the North Carolina foster care system, said he was sleeping on the streets off and on by the time he was 14. By 16, he was homeless, carrying his belongings in bags.
Wayne met Russell and Bea Costner, who were in their 70s, after offering to mow the couple's lawn. They asked him to move in, which allowed him to finish high school, get a college degree and eventually pursue his career in music, his manager Jenny Bohler, said.
"I've never forgotten where I've come from," Wayne said.
As word of his journey spread through Twitter, the Meet Me Halfway Web site, meetmehalfway.jimmy wayne.com, and through live streamed video, people along the route have opened their homes to Wayne.
"People have been so generous," he said.
Two of those were Pampans Clint Devoll and Josh Jackson. The roommates initially hoped to get Wayne's autograph when they heard on the radio that he was passing through Wheeler. They ended up offering Wayne a place to stay and a bed, even though it meant sleeping on the couch and floor.
"He's doing something a little more important than we're doing," Jackson said.
"It's amazing what he's done with his life," Devoll added.
"He's a walking inspiration," Jackson said.