Most people walk by people in the community who struggle with homelessness without acknowledging them.
Joe Hollins and his wife are no different.
The couple lives in an encampment in Phoenix.
It’s not uncommon for people to walk past them without saying “hello” or offering a simple smile. Being homeless often equates to not even being noticed. Their problems aren’t often front and center for any community.
Joe didn’t have a home — and a woman named Claudia Jimenez was about to lose hers to a fire.
What happened next might just challenge every preconceived notion you ever had about people who are less fortunate — and will change your perspective on what’s really valuable in life.
How a Homeless Man Saved an Entire Family
Everything changed for Claudia in the early morning hours of May, 2023.
The mother of two young daughters woke up to find flames tearing through her apartment, according to CBS News.
Panic set in and she attempted to usher her daughters to safety by exiting the front door, but she quickly discovered her entire family was trapped inside her burning home.
The front door was blocked by the blaze.
Claudia began screaming for help as her house burnt down around her.
“I opened my window and I started yelling ‘Please, someone help me, there’s a fire, I can’t get out through the front, I need someone to help me,” she said to news reporters.
Joe heard her frantic screams and ran to help her, without a moment’s thought.
From Homeless to Hero
Joe ran toward the screams and selflessly began to lead the rescue efforts that would ultimately save Claudia’s entire family.
“All I see is a lady pull open the window and she’s screaming ‘Please help me, please help me,’” Joe said.
Suddenly, the man that nobody noticed at all, was the man Claudia was fixated on.
Joe approached her window and helped calm the frantic mother down. He reassured her that if she dropped her two children down to him, he would catch them.
“He was right underneath and he was like ‘Yes, throw your daughters out, I’m going to catch them, I’m going to get them,” Jimenez said, as she recalled the incident.
The fire was growing in intensity and was surrounding her young family.
Heroically and confidently, Joe caught the terrified little girl and brought her to safety.
Claudia then dropped her eight-year-old daughter, Natalie, into Joe’s arms. Amid the flames, the homeless hero caught her too.
Claudia then sent her two dogs out the window and Joe caught them both, one-by-one. He brought the furry family members to safety alongside the children.
But the rescue wasn’t finished.
Claudia was still inside, and she was too fearful to jump. She froze, and just couldn’t get herself to jump down. Precious seconds were lost, and the situation became increasingly dangerous.
“She didn’t want to come at first,” recalled Joe. “She was scared she was going to fall.” He refused to give up and kept reassuring her, “I got you.”
Claudia finally jumped down, and for the fifth time in mere minutes, Joe made a successful rescue.
He caught her in his arms and reunited the terrified mother with her children and her pets before the fire department had even arrived on scene.
The fire was extinguished, but the family’s home was destroyed.
They were homeless, just like the man that had brought them each down to safety from a burning building.
In a moment, everything changed, and ‘homeless’ suddenly looked different.
Most of us wouldn’t know what to do in a moment of sheer terror such as this one.
Joe didn’t stop long enough to even think about it. His selfless, heroic act is the very reason Claudia’s family is together today, and Claudia is forever grateful for everything he did for her family in their desperate time of need.
“I will forever be thankful with him, you know? Like I said, to me he was an angel,” Claudia said. “Because of him we’re here, we’re alive and my daughters are safe.”
Joe shrugged off the praise and insisted that he wasn’t a hero. He maintains that he is just a citizen that was doing what he believed any other citizen would do in a moment of crisis.
“Ya, anybody would. Those are children,” he said.
Claudia, Natalie, Valerie, and the family’s two dogs were suddenly homeless. They lost everything in the fire, as did many other residents of the building, according to CBS News.
Members of the neighborhood began organizing efforts to raise money to help the survivors of the fire, which reportedly remains under investigation.
The family is grateful to be alive. And if it weren’t for the heroic homeless man, it might be a catastrophically different story.
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, you never the power of the human spirit and who might one day end up becoming your guardian angel.
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