Woman takes to the road for homelessness

Published 10:38 pm Monday, March 9, 2009

Motorists through Suffolk on Monday may have spotted a mysterious figure walking down the street in an orange jumpsuit and waving an American flag.

Turns out, there’s a perfectly good explanation for it.

Kim Denmark, a Dayton, Ohio, native and former business owner, has been walking across the United States for nearly seven years in an effort to bring awareness to the plight of the homeless.


Email newsletter signup

Denmark said she strives to serve as a representative and a voice of the poor to speak out about homelessness, poverty, jobs and housing.

“I was a successful business owner and had everything going for me,” she said during a brief stop in Franklin last week. “But I was living a very selfish life and didn’t care about anyone else.”

Then Denmark said she had a dream that led to an epiphany.

“I had a dream that replayed a lot of the selfish tendencies I previously had over and over again in my mind,” she said. “From that dream, I realized that I should be doing more to give back to the people out there who were hurting.”

Denmark said she decided that by walking across America she would have a chance to talk to everyday Americans, to get to know their struggles and to bring awareness about the people who are suffering throughout the nation.

“It was like God told me to just walk, and so I did,” she said.

Denmark said she has covered more than 4,000 miles and is currently on her 22nd pair of shoes. She said she covers about 10 miles a day, sleeping in hotels at night. She is followed often by a security detail, but sometimes takes the road all alone.

She said she receives funding for her journey through her own personal accounts and from family, friends and private sponsors who admire her cause.

In many cities, Denmark said, she has had the opportunity to address the mayors, activists and City Council members who can help bring change to their localities.

“People need to know that they have the power to do things to help right where they are; that’s what I hope I bring to the areas I travel,” she said.

Denmark has already traveled through 15 states and Washington, D.C.

This trip makes her second through Virginia. She walked this same path a few years ago on her way to Washington to address the former president, but was turned away.

“I was told then that my efforts were appreciated, but I didn’t get a listening ear,” she said.

Still, Denmark said she was determined not to give up. On March 25, she plans to arrive in Washington, D.C., again and is hopeful she will gain an audience with President Barack Obama.

“After I was rejected the first time, I could have given up. But I decided to just keep walking and gathering information about all these Americans who are still in need,” Denmark said.

“In every community I visit, there are mothers with young children who have had their lights turned off,” she said. “There are elderly ones who have no food in their refrigerators. I am hoping to give voice to these people.”

Denmark said along her journey, she has met many Americans whose stories reflect the types of things just described. As she reaches a new town, she often spends a few days learning about the people and helping out. While there, she takes pictures and catalogs those stories.

Denmark said she believes she will be heard when those stories are numbering in the thousands.

“I understand that the administration and Congress are working on a plan to help people, but I want to tell them they need to do something now that can stop folks who might get foreclosed on or lose their jobs before the stimulus can take effect,” she said.

“I think our president will hear that.”

Denmark was headed through Suffolk Monday afternoon on Washington Street. She planned to find her way to Main Street and then west onto U.S. Route 460. She has just a little more than three weeks to make her self-imposed deadline for reaching Washington, D.C.