According to an article published in January by Kizley Benedict of DataFace.com and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there is “roughly 554,000 homeless people living somewhere in the United States on a given night last year” and “[a] total of 193,000 of those people were “unsheltered,” meaning that they were living on the streets and had no access to emergency shelters, transitional housing, or Safe Havens” (Source). Joshua Janis is a jiu-jitsu instructor, and entrepreneur, who recently spent 48 hours voluntarily homeless in order to better understand the plight these individuals go through on a daily basis.
Jiu-Jitsu Times: How long have you been training? What’s your rank? Where do you train? Any significant accomplishments?
Joshua Janis: I have been training jiu-jitsu cumulatively over 13 years. I am a 2 stripe brown belt under Jon Friedland at Neutral Ground Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu. My major accomplishment in BJJ is my clear understanding of body mechanics and subsequent ability to clearly articulate to all levels when coaching or giving seminars. In simpler terms, I like coaching.
JJT: What is this project, and what were your main motivations behind it?
Janis: The project you are referring to is my voluntary 48 hours of being homeless. To answer what that is, I need to give you a little background. My day job is a Personal Development and team building company named Odisee. For personal development, we create a strategic action for people to have the opportunity to learn about themselves outside of their comfort zone. In my opinion, if I am going to talk the talk of taking action, then I need to walk the walk. That is why this particular challenge came to be. I believed that I had a cognitive bias against homeless people and I wanted to challenge that. My personal Odisee consists of many challenges, a lot of which are personal and I never tell anyone. This 48 hours homeless seem to strike a chord with people, and so I decided to make it public and try to do some good around it.
JJT: What did you learn from being homeless for 48 hours, and how has it changed your perspective & motivated you?
Janis: I learned a lot but I’ll give you the big answers about what I learned personally and what I learned about society. First, personally, I learned that being homeless is very difficult both physically and emotionally. Physically we walked over 35 miles in 48 hours. While to some that’s not a lot, to a guy like me that gets his cardio on the mats and drives everywhere that is a ton. On top of the constant moving, you have little to no sleep, and your nutrition is awful. Emotionally it is a huge hit to your ego to have to beg. Man, I did not want to do that. It was a very humbling experience. What I learned about society is that they really go out of their way to make you invisible as a homeless person. If you have a piece of cardboard and look dirty you can say hello and they just walk on by. The vast majority of people would rather ignore you than acknowledge you and have to feel bad about saying “no” to giving you a dollar, or a blanket, or some food. The funny thing about this fact is if there was a zombie apocalypse, and I had to bet on who would survive, a homeless person or an average person, the smart money is on the homeless person all day. Society may look down on them because they are begging but I would be trailing one if our system collapsed.
JJT: Do you have any other similar causes or activism planned, and how can people get involved?
Janis: I don’t consider what I am doing a cause or activism. I am just taking action to learn about myself and if I see an opportunity to help my fellow man along the way that’s awesome. My next challenge in my personal Odisee is to go 24 hours in almost dark solitary confinement. I doubt that will gain as much interest as this past one 🙂 People can get involved by donating to the GoFundMe set up called Skinny Santas. If you donate at least $2 I will send you a link to the blog I wrote detailing this past experience.
It takes a special kind of person to not only put themselves out there to try to use their gifts to benefit those less fortunate but also thrust themselves into an uncomfortable situation in order to better understand the struggle. After reading Josh’s recap of his 48-hour experience it opened my eyes to how I can treat my fellow man with more dignity and respect.