Alaska Native Samuel Johns first became involved with the homeless community in Anchorage when he would drum and sing at Bean’s Cafe, but he quickly became busy with other responsibilities around town that kept him from volunteering. After some time, he began to feel like he wasn’t doing as much as he could.
Samuel met a homeless woman who wanted help getting back to her village, and he promised the woman that he would help her. Unfortunately, shortly after their meeting, he lost all of the information he had to get ahold of the woman. He couldn’t even remember her first name. “I left her hanging, and I felt pretty bad about it,” he says. This event inspired Samuel to take action.
He began to think of a concept where he could track all of the information of the homeless people he had promised to help. “That way if my phone were broken, I wouldn’t lose the information,” Samuel says. He decided that the best way to do this was to start a private Facebook group.
Samuel talked with some of his friends about the idea, and they asked him, “What if other people want to help too?” He made a post to his personal Facebook page about the concept, and a lot of people were interested. He published the group, and people began to roll in by the hundreds, then thousands.
Today, the Forget-Me-Not Facebook group has over 20,000 members. It is used to reconnect homeless Alaska Natives in Anchorage to their first home, their culture, and the resources to return. Through the group, these people are able to share the stories of how they got to where they are. “Usually what happens is someone from their village will see their name and tag a family member,” Samuel says, “People are home right now. Some have been home for over a year, living life with their families and hopefully reconnecting with their culture.”