Online movement helps the homeless reconnect with their families

Giving in Focus: Samuel Johns
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Story highlights

  • Samuel Johns started the Facebook group Forget Me Not AK in June
  • Forget Me Not members help find families related to homeless individuals
  • Group members also come together to help others regardless the need

Anchorage, Alaska (CNN)Samuel Johns says he's a simple man who just wants to give back.

"I used to be a carpenter," says Johns, who lives in Anchorage. "There's a lot of ordinary people that can make a powerful impact in this world."
During the winter, the temperatures in parts of Alaska can easily drop to minus 20 or lower. The frigid cold, along with the lack of daylight and mountains of snow, can be deadly for someone who is homeless. Samuel Johns knows all too well the dangers these individuals face. He has seen them with his own eyes.
So he decided to do something about it.
"I started ForgetMeNotAK.org, a Facebook group page, to help the homeless reconnect with their families," says Johns.
Within six months after he started the movement, the Facebook page reached over 16,500 members. Johns says it is a community built on people who want to do good things for those in need.

How it works

If the homeless person agrees, his or her photo is posted on the Forget Me Not Facebook page, along with the person's name and other information. If someone recognizes the person, the group will provide as much information as possible to help the homeless person get back home.
Samuel Johns founded Forget Me Not AK.
The group gives people who want to fight homelessness a way to do so in cyberspace. It also provides clothes and other resources to the homeless.
"We've already gotten people off of the street, but I can't bring everybody home. I can meet them and encourage them and let them know that they are loved," Johns said. "I don't want to look at them in a bad way, you know. Instead of stereotyping them, I want to see what their stories are and treat them like human beings."

Music brings people together

Although Johns has never been homeless, he has had his share of personal struggles. He's a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for eight years.
"I found my outlet through music. That's what really helped me sober up," John says. Currently, he's trying to make it as an artist who blends hip-hop with his Athabascan (Native Alaskan) culture.
He believes everyone can relate to music, and that's what he brings when volunteering at Bean's Cafe, a nonprofit organization that has been serving meals to the homeless in Anchorage since 1979.
Johns serves up drumming and singing in his native language at Bean's and invites others to dance and sing along.
"It brings people back to their roots, to when they were young. It's like bringing them back to their true identity," says Johns. "I think performing music makes people feel really good. That's what I like to do when I'm down here."