New Jersey man walking cross country for homelessness fundraiser
SANDY HOOK, N.J. – Sam Green and his dog, Taylor Ham, left from one of their favorite walking spots by the beach in Sandy Hook on May 14, and began walking west.
Two-and-a-half months — and more than 500 miles later — they are still going.
Green, 32, and Taylor Ham, his 8 1/2-year-old, 75-pound pit bull/border collie mix, are part-way through a walk across America. Their adventure is helping Green, an avid hiker, fulfill a lifelong dream of walking across the country.
Taylor Ham walks “a mile or two” a day, but most often she’s pushed along the way by Green in a jogger-stroller for dogs. He’s outfitted the stroller with three rechargeable fans to keep her cool.
It’s also serving as a unique fundraiser for Just Believe Inc., a New Jersey-based charity that operates a local Code Blue shelter for the homeless, and is fundraising to build “Jeff’s Camp,” a shelter for homeless veterans.
Green’s aim is to try to raise $25,000 by the time he reaches Los Angeles, in mid- to late October, about a 3,000 mile total distance. So far, his GoFundMe campaign has brought in close to $5,300.
“The dog and I are slowly making our way west,” Green said in a recent interview as he walked along a road outside Dayton, Ohio. “One step at a time, we are getting there.”
Green has also used the top of a shoe rack he got at Walmart and secured it to the top of the cart. That holds his clothes, a food bag, which contains three to four days of food, and his electronics, including a camp light, laptop and phone.
He has three tripods attached to his cart, which is topped by an American flag and an umbrella, and posts updates on his YouTube channel Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
He said they walk a minimum of 15 miles a day, “unless it’s a really bad day, really mountainous,” and they have detoured from direct routes for sightseeing.
The farthest they have gone in one day: 35 miles.
Paul Hulse, president and chief executive officer of Just Believe, said Green’s walk has inspired him and the many volunteers who work with the organization.
“The coolest part for us is, it’s such an inspiration for us,” Hulse said. “I have volunteers that have been doing this for six years, seven years. When you see someone doing something like that, it makes you work so much harder. It’s just awesome.”
Green, a political science major at Brookdale Community College, learned about Just Believe Inc. while researching a class assignment on current events.
He’d decided to write about homelessness and learned that Ocean County is the only county in the state without a year-round transitional housing facility for the homeless.
Just Believe has been working with county officials and local Councilman Terrance Turnbach to find land for a potential shelter that Just Believe could own and operate.
“Homelessness has always bothered me,” Green said. “A lot of homeless people are just people who are down on their luck. They need help.”
Prior to beginning this walk, Green quit his job right ahead of the pandemic to hike the entire, 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail. He had covered 250 miles when the pandemic cut his walk short.
In New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, he and Taylor Ham mostly stayed in “cheap hotels or motels” but once they got deeper into Pennsylvania, the pair has mostly camped for the night.
The heat has been an issue throughout the walk, during a summer that’s been scorching hot in many parts of the U.S. Temperatures in the mid- to upper-90s have occasionally slowed Green down.
Along the way, though, he said he’s found mostly friendly people to speak to. He’s also met with many other people who are crossing the U.S. by bicycle or on foot.
“There are so many people crossing the country in different ways,” Green said. “There is a guy in Arizona right now, wearing a bear suit as he’s walking.” The bear-suited walker is raising money for St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital in New York, he said.
His “beach dog” has adjusted well to life on the road, although Green said he is worried about the heat he’ll face in the desert west. “I might have Taylor stay with family while I go through the desert,” he said. I don’t want to put her at risk.”
Hulse said he thinks Green has learned a bit more about homelessness just from his time on the road.
“It’s just been really neat to watch him, see what he has endured,” Hulse said of watching the YouTube videos. “He’s been told to keep moving by the cops; to just hear those things, it’s all the stuff that I know with working in the homeless community.”
Follow Jean Mikle on Twitter: @jeanmikle.