KSU student lived homeless to battle corruption

Ed Hambrick, actor, activist and senior theatre studies major, spent time moving through Chicagos network of homeless shelters before returning to Kent State to finish his degree. Through his experience, he said he saw a lot of corruption in the system supposedly meant to help the city’s homeless. Photo by Valerie Brown

Ed Hambrick, actor, activist and senior theatre studies major, spent time moving through Chicago’s network of homeless shelters before returning to Kent State to finish his degree. Through his experience, he said he saw a lot of corruption in the system supposedly meant to help the city’s homeless. Photo by Valerie Brown

Britni Williams

Most Kent State students wouldn’t picture themselves becoming homeless after leaving college.

Edward Hambrick, a 44-year-old senior theatre studies major, didn’t picture himself homeless until he realized there was a cause worth fighting for.

Leaving Kent

Warmth seized the day

In the delicate balance of life

And turned ordinary lives

Into extraordinary lives.

-From “Tales of Warmth” by Edward Hambrick

Hambrick first attended Kent State in the ‘80s, but because of financial reasons, he decided to take a year off in 1990 after attending the university for six years. He decided to take that year to explore life.

“I felt extremely sheltered,” Hambrick said. “I felt that I did not know a whole lot about life when I was leaving (Kent), and I knew that my long-term goals required that specifically. I knew I had to go out there and live, find things out and experience things. I just let the chips fall where they may.”

Immediately after leaving Kent, he went back home to Cincinnati.

“I had a buddy who made doughnuts, and I made a deal with him: ‘I’ll give you a year. You teach me how to do this,’” Hambrick said. “I was intrigued by it. I wanted to learn it. I said ‘I got a year to do it, why not?’ So I gave him a year there and learned how to do that. Still enjoy it. Love doing that stuff.”

Around that same time, he got the part of Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet for Northern Kentucky’s “Shakespeare in the Park.”

After finishing the season of “Shakespeare in the Park,” he had no real plans for himself, and on the suggestion of an old classmate, picked up and left for Chicago.

Fight for the homeless

Unrelenting murmurs of deceit,

Boil to the surface of personality,

Contributing to conceit.

-From “Truth, Beauty and Goodness” by Edward Hambrick

After arriving in Chicago, Hambrick went to visit his old classmate only to find that he was out of town. Having nowhere to stay, a neighbor invited him to stay with her until his classmate got back in town.

It was at that time that Hambrick realized he was on his own.

“I sat out by myself to figure things out in that town,” Hambrick said. “I discovered it on my own…I guess long story short, that’s when I found out how truly corrupt and unhelpful the system was. It was like the system itself was set up to create failure instead of create success, and I didn’t like that at all.”

At the time, the Salvation Army had just opened a single-room occupancy wing for low-income residents in their building, and Hambrick moved in. The rooms were set up similar to a dorm building with single-occupancy rooms, shared bathrooms and shared kitchens.

Hambrick knew he wanted to help the other homeless people of uptown Chicago against the corruptions of the system. By chance, he met Michael “Mickey” Ditkowsky who was starting an organization to do just that.

“When I met Mickey, I had been renting what they call an SRO, single room occupancy. I found out later it’s all a government program basically, and there was corruption in those. Mickey had experience in one himself. The day I met him, I had gone through some legal steps with them (government agencies) and finally just got fed up.”

Hambrick was fed up with how the Salvation Army treated its residents. They had curfews, restrictions and room inspections.

“They treated you like a 5-year-old,” Hambrick said.

He decided that he would be better on the streets than in the SRO.

“That was the first notion of being more effective from that perspective,” Hambrick said. “As soon as I walked out the door, up walks Mickey.”

Ditkowsky told him about the Uptown Global Association, a new organization that he was forming. At the time, the organization only had a charter and a couple of papers, but the group was growing.

The group intrigued Hambrick. He said its charter basically said, “Here are our skills and here’s what we’re going to do with them.”

“I said ‘perfect, sign me up.’”

Ditkowsky was also homeless.

“We were an organization that was currently on the streets or living in shelters that saw all sorts of violations taking place,” Ditkowsky said. “All sort of non-accountable monies being misspent, and we banded together and formed a group, and we worked together with a lot of city agencies”

Ditkowsky enjoyed working with Hambrick.

“It was like having a partner and a brother,” Ditkowsky said. “He was great to work with.”

Hambrick said they were a small group but had a huge network that included doctors, nurses, lawyers, law enforcement officers, politicians, religious leaders and community leaders, and they kept in frequent contact with all of them. Mickey was the main public relations contact for the group and worked to find and maintain contacts for their network.

“Everybody was real excited about what we were doing and would not hesitate to come ask us something, come and give us information, come tell us something they found out because they knew we had a network we could immediately reach with those things,” Hambrick said. “And we did.”

They became activists for the homeless against the corruption that was taking place. For instance, the group helped expose a man skimming money from a shelter he was running.

Unfortunately for the group, the man and his wife skipped town before they could be investigated.

“That’s exactly what we were about,” Hambrick said. “Not only exposing people and organizations like that but bringing them down, bringing them to justice.”

The group was even asked to do an undercover mission, of sorts.

“We went out to the suburbs once,” Hambrick said. “They were opening up a tri-village network of shelters, and the community had read about us and contacted us and said, ‘We don’t think they’re setting this up right. We know that’s what you guys do; would you mind infiltrating this and making sure they’re doing the right stuff?’ So we did.”

Hambrick also helped infiltrate shelters that had breakouts of tuberculosis.

“There was a breakout of tuberculosis within the shelters that Mickey, from his experience and skills, fought very hard to contain,” Hambrick said.

He said they had contacts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a top tuberculosis doctor in Chicago and were able to help manage the breakout.

Hambrick said it was politics that kept these shelters from operating like they should have.

“We didn’t have any politics,” Hambrick said. “We were just about getting it done.”

Living by faith

The animal must adapt itself to the environment, but the religious man transcends his environment and in this way escapes the limitations of the present material world through this insight of divine love.

-From the Urantia Book

Hambrick said his faith was his key to survival. He lived by this quote from the Urantia Book and by a Bible verse: Matthew 6:33.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Hambrick said the quote illustrated how he and Ditkowsky survived during their time of activism.

“First we sought, and all those things were added,” Hambrick said. “We never needed or wanted for anything.”

Sometimes they took odd jobs to support themselves, but they never worried about money.

“Our network didn’t allow us to need anything,” Hambrick said.

Hambrick said the network of people supporting their cause always made sure they had enough money for coffee, newspapers, train fares and trips to the copy shop.

“Success is for the world. I live in this world but am not of it,” Hambrick said. “By choosing to do what is best for the greater good, I believe I am doing the will of the Father.”

Life after Chicago

Obstacles fall away,

Opportunity becomes destiny.

-From “Essence of Pulchritude” by Edward Hambrick

After spending two years as an activist in Chicago, Hambrick returned home to Cincinnati because his father was ill and died not long after his return.

He spent the next seven years living in Cincinnati, during which he went on a Theatre for Outreach tour.

During the tour, he traveled around the center of the country, from Plano, Texas, to Tampa, Fla., and up and down the Mississippi River. He performed musicals for schools and school districts.

When his mother died, he decided to leave Cincinnati and move to Rockford, Ill., to be closer to his friends.

Hambrick spent 10 years in Rockford then made the decision to return to Kent and finish his degree.

“It was just time for it,” he said.

Fall 2010 was Hambrick’s first semester back on campus.

“When I returned to Kent last semester, I had to scramble to change my schedule due to the fact that I was a week late in getting here from Rockford for the start of the semester,” Hambrick said.

Because of those last minute schedule changes, he met Jeffrey Wattles, an associate professor of philosophy.

“I could tell immediately that he was a remarkable person,” Wattles said. “When you meet a soul of that maturity that’s already expanded, that’s already luminous, you just look at the man and he makes you feel peaceful.”

Wattles said it took courage and tenacity for Hambrick to return to Kent after being gone 20 years.

“He really has so much to give,” Wattles said.

Even though he’s faced a lot of hardships in his life, Hambrick said he wouldn’t change a thing he’s done.

“All of my experiences I deem very valuable no matter what,” Hambrick said. “They’re all very valuable to me. That’s one thing you learn, even the bad experiences are good because you learn something from it…Something you learn quite a bit with that motto for a long period of time, you learn that everything is positive, everything has a positive spin on it, you just have to dig it out sometimes.”

Contact Britni Williams at [email protected]