Yale grad gets help from fellow alum after living on streets of LA for years

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Saturday, November 9, 2019
Yale grad no longer living on LA streets thanks to help of fellow alum
After several years of living on the streets of Los Angeles, a Yale University alumni who worked on Wall Street says he was saved by an "angel."

LOS ANGELES -- After several years of living on the streets of Los Angeles, an Ivy League graduate's life is back on track thanks to a woman who he describes as an "angel."

California's homeless crisis has touched people from all different backgrounds, but Shawn Pleasants' case is quite unique.

"It's not someone else's problem. It's a problem we all could face," Pleasants said.

The 52-year-old was a high school valedictorian, got into Harvard but chose to go to Yale and major in economics, worked on Wall Street and started his own business before it all fell apart and he ended up homeless in Koreatown, where he lived for six years.

Kim Hershman, could not sit still after hearing about Pleasants' story in September, especially after learning his encampment was mere miles away from her home.

The Hollywood attorney, also a Yale graduate, began to formulate a plan.

"How could I not? I live in L.A., he is someone who was a year behind me in school," she said.

On a sunny September afternoon, she headed to Koreatown, feeling an obligation to help someone she considers one of her own.

"You don't have to bring any food. You don't have to bring any toiletries," Hershman said.

Less than three weeks later, Pleasants and his partner David said goodbye to the streets after 10 years.

"On this day, we will leave the streets, hopefully forever," he said.

Hershman arranged for them to stay in a guest house on a posh L.A. estate.

Soon, they'll have a place of their own with Section 8 housing.

"She's an angel," Pleasants said. "It was unreal because we kept thinking...at some point, someone's gonna say April Fools and then it's over."

It turned out it was just the beginning. Pleasants was one of 60,000 homeless in Los Angeles County, with a quarter of the nation's homeless living in California - from L.A.'s skid row to the streets of San Francisco. Now he hopes to start a new life.

But it's not all fairy tales.

Years on the street contributed to a powerful drug addiction.

Rehabilitation is a must, and Hershman is facilitating.

"It's tantamount...it's to my credibility," Pleasants said.

Along the way, they've been documenting the journey, including Pleasants' goal to become a powerful voice to combat the homeless crisis and become worthy of his new lease on life.

Pleasants has a message for those hoping he takes full advantage of his new opportunity.

"I do too...I hope for their sakes that they don't lose their footing, because they'll experience some of the worst times that I have experienced personally," he said.

When asked if there's a chance he'll ever wind up back on the streets, Pleasants replied, "I hope the hell not."

CNN contributed to this story.