THE HOMELESS HOMELESS ADVOCATE
Eric Jonathan Sheptock was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey where at the age of 8 months he suffered a massive head injury -- which may have been a matter of child abuse or a bad accident -- and was not expected by doctors to develop normal cognitive functions, much less finish high school. He spent five years in foster care due to prospective parents not wanting to raise someone who wouldn't meet their standards for success. Then a Polish man and Italian woman took him in when he was five and a half years old. A year later they moved into a mansion in Peapack, New Jersey where they raised 37 children -- seven natural and 30 adopted. One has since died. Eric has at least 42 nieces and nephews as well as seven great nieces and nephews.
The Sheptocks moved to Florida in early 1985. Eric graduated from Hollister Christian Academy in Hollister, Florida in June of 1987, having been a straight-A student. But he's beaten other odds as well. The head injury left him an extreme stutterer who often took three minutes to utter one sentence, causing him to become exhausted and walk away from many conversations. He's defeated the stuttering enough to now speak at various high schools, colleges, universities and churches. he's also been featured on CNN, Al-Jazeera and other media. His is a story of overcoming and beating the odds.
Eric began advocating for the homeless in June 2006 due to the coaching of the late Mary Ann Luby. He began as a member of the Committee to Save Franklin Shelter and was part of the successful effort to stop Mayor Tony Williams from closing the Franklin School Shelter. Fellow homeless advocate David Pirtle taught him to do e-mail in November of that year -- a day that many in DC Government now curse. Eric has gone on to become a prolific user of e-mail and Facebook and often blogs.
In 2011 Eric became the chairman of the then-new advocacy group SHARC which stands for "Shelter, Housing And Respectful Change". SHARC formed for the purpose of informing poor and homeless people about budget cuts to social services which would negatively impact them. They went on to become instrumental in beginning the robust public conversation around the future of the 1,350-bed Federal City Shelter -- a conversation that continues to this day and could end with up to one-sixth of Washington, DC's homeless population obtaining housing and/or improved shelter.