ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — A group of people in Asheville, North Carolina came together to help a homeless man, renewing his faith in humanity.
More than 500,000 people - a quarter of them children - were homeless in the United States in 2017, according to a study released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Over the last two years, Michael Provard has become a fixture at Trade and Lore Coffee in Asheville.
You might say it is his home away from the home he hasn't had in years. He's been homeless since 2002.
"There's a lot of people that need in this town, a lot of homeless people, oh yeah," Michael said. "Being homeless takes a toll on your mind, body, and spirit."
You can find him at the shop about 13 hours of the day, working on his latest piece.
"A priest said that it was very Byzantine, a style of art back in the 4th century," he explained, pointing to his art.
Jonathan Flaum of Farm to Home Milk sees Michael everyday when he makes his morning delivery to the coffee shop.
"Someone had to take just a tiny step," said Flaum.
Flaum and others came together to give Provard hope and a place to live. The owner of Trade and Lore, Sarah Winkler, started a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough cash for a security deposit, rent, and furnishings.
They have almost achieved their goal of $5,000 so far. They hope that money will also help jump-start a business model that gives Michael the income he needs to keep a roof over his head.
Carson Lucci and Eric Burleson of Over Easy Cafe, another local coffee shop in the area, also supported the cause with an exhibit to support Michael's art.
Because of the outpouring, he now expects to move into an apartment on May 1, 2018.
This is big news for a man who often creates art to escape the cold reality of homelessness.
"So, I try to sell a painting and get a cheap room for the night," he said of the daily pressure. "Sometimes I can't, so I sleep outside."
Often he settles for a set of downtown steps.
"That's how my life has been, one extreme to the next," Michael explained, still in disbelief of the effort that paints a portrait of compassion.
"We're all interconnected," Flaum said. "We all need each other. Michael needs something. I need something, too."
"My humanity is bound up in yours," Michael responded. "For we can only be human together."
Over the years, a lot of people have seen him downtown, but many never gave him a second glance.
"If you make a little noise and a little motion, other people say, 'Yeah, how can I help?'" Flaum said.
If you want to help the homeless people in your area, check out The National Alliance to End Homelessness for more information.