SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Like many others, Candice Bivens would drive past a man sleeping on the hard concrete every day as she went to work, wondering about who this man was and how he got there.
She would notice that he wasn’t begging, he would put on his glasses and read a book or play crossword puzzles.
“Something just pulled me to him like he pulled my heartstrings. I don’t know how or why,” said Bivens.
Days went by when she didn’t see him on her morning commute until one day he returned with a sling on his arm, and she couldn’t be silent much longer.
She wrote a four-page letter to him, asking him if he wanted to be pen pals, to show the man that someone cared and saw him.
“He told me that all he wanted to do was work, he didn’t want anything but to just work,” said Bevins.
She then brought a friend and sat down with him to hear his story, where they talked for hours.
Born in Yukon Canada, Flo grew up as a normal child going to school and learning about carpentry from his father.
He went on to graduate with an associate’s degree in mechanical engineering.
From there he worked as a freelance carpenter for 40 years when a friend from Key West asked him to come down and look after his company.
Living in Key West was hard for him as the island is hit frequently by hurricanes where sometimes he would find himself sleeping in water and lost his ID.
Later, he found a gig in Savannah helping a friend. So he packed his van full of $17,000 worth of tools and worked for various contractors for about 5 years.
The 68-year-old’s world changed when his van full of work equipment was stolen and when he reported it to the police, nothing happened.
“That rendered me homeless,” said Flo. “Attempting to get work I was basically living on the street.”
He was alone, as he hadn’t spoken to his sister for 25 years after the death of their father.
While on the street he would occasionally be roughed up and robbed by groups of teenagers and young adults with guns.
Working odd jobs wasn’t enough for him to find stability, but he found peace at church, which anchored him. He met others there who were supportive and said, “They weren’t in any position to help because they were struggling too but it gave me someone to talk to.”
“He just got dealt with a bad hand,” said Bivens.
After sustaining a broken shoulder, which he had to get surgery on, and battling various infections from untreated wounds, Bivens got Flo a hotel room as she made a plan of action.
“I just wanted to provide him a safe space while he was healing,” said Bivens. “No way, I can drop him back off on that corner.”
More familiar with helping animals, on the planning board from the Guardians of Effingham Animal Rescue, “I’ve never done this before.”
She then remembered when the community raised around $7,000 for 2 dogs that lived on the streets and thought.
“All these people would’ve passed by him, but if he was a dog they would help,” said Bivens. “Why can’t we do this for one man?”
She found medical help from friends to help him recover from his injuries and began to make posts on social media where his story resonated with many across the region who donated and asked how they could help.
“And he’s just so kind-hearted, he doesn’t want people to know, you know, that he’s hurt or in pain,” said Bivens. “He just wanted just to work for people and it was very hard to get him to really open up to me.”
Bivens got Flo a phone and reached out to a mobile homeowner who was getting ready to throw away the abandoned trailer and explained Flo’s situation.
“It wasn’t in the best shape at all, by any means, it was a deplorable condition,” said Bivens, but the owner responded.
“If you wanna come and fix it up, I’ll let him stay there for 5 to 6 months or whatever he needs.”
From there, Candice, Flo, and members of the community got together to clean the mobile home from top to bottom so he could start a new one.
“A lot of people in the community had donated furniture and all sorts of things that we were able to go there and turn it into a home for him,” said Bivens.
Suffering from anxiety, the month to get Flo on his feet took a toll on Candice but she knew she had to find Flo a home.
“One month versus an entire person the rest of their life not dying or on that corner, you know, like it was just so worth it,” said Bivens.
A home and a new start
Now in Collins Georgia, Flo says he is thankful for the hard work of Candice, a stranger, who took the time to help a man in need.
While working a few jobs and doing maintenance on Candice’s house, Flo is still looking for permanent and stable work.
“Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m confident things will work out,” said Flo.
He is now able to make calls, use the internet, and take warm showers.
“Candice is an amazing woman who has so much love in her heart,” said Flo.
As Flo works on finding a job, Candice is working on getting him identification and or a new passport.
She encourages others to “take the time, maybe 10 minutes, to stop and say hello. You can write a letter to become pen pals something to let people know they are thought about.”
“Every tear, every late night, you know, every single bit of it was worth it. I made a friend for life,” said Bivens.