Kicked out of his house at the age of 16, Francky Pierre-Paul found himself couch surfing and sleeping on park benches. “It was demoralizing,” he recalls. “I hated it, and I hated myself.”
He says it was like having two identities: At night, he was homeless and alone with nowhere to turn. But during the day, he was at school and surrounded by friends—masking his feelings of depression and loneliness.
“That’s why I’m so big on changing the perspective of homelessness and how people view those who are struggling,” Pierre-Paul says.
Now, as an advocate, Pierre-Paul helps the more than 1,500 people experiencing homelessness in Palm Beach County. He often finds himself back in those same parks he once called home, passing out food and personal care items to the people living there.
“My goal is to figure out why they are out here so I can share that story with the community and try to get them help,” he says.
His nonprofit, A Different Shade of Love, holds events around Palm Beach County, providing clothes, shoes, haircuts, and showers. It’s the small things, Pierre-Paul says, that help people who are experiencing homelessness feel like they are a part of the life going on
“What I’ve realized about our homeless neighbors on the street is that they’re voiceless. And that’s because of us in the community,” Pierre-Paul admits. “We tell them, ‘You’re not allowed to do this, or you’re not allowed to do that.’”
It’s what he was told (and how he lived) for too many years. But things are different for Pierre-Paul now, and he credits the bulk of his success to his wife. “I feel like she’s my angel on Earth because she’s more than a wife to me—she’s also a counselor, a best friend, a pat on the back, and a smile when I need it.”
The couple’s two young children also motivate Pierre-Paul to continue his mission. “I’m able to teach them the values of life and the importance of waking up and inhaling and exhaling and appreciating each moment,” he says.
His journey has been brutal at times. But Pierre-Paul says that through it all, he’s found his purpose—and he’s not taking his second chance for granted. “If I can change one soul before I leave this Earth,” he says, “then I feel like my job here while I’m just passing by is not null and void.”