At 19, Fred Barley knows what he wants out of life and showed Barnesville he’ll do anything to make it happen.
Barnesville, a tiny mid-Georgia town, showed Barley he’ll have help along the way.
Officers found the teen sleeping in a tent over the weekend outside Gordon State College. Instead of giving him a ticket for trespassing, the officers listened to his story and then acted.
Barley, a homeless college student, said he had ridden his little brother’s bike six hours carrying all he owned from Conyers to Barnesville — that’s about 55 miles — to register for his second semester of college.
Gordon campus dorms open in August, so Barley pitched a tent in some bushes on campus and prepared to spend the next few weeks there.
He had spent the day job-searching Saturday and returned to his tent when officers investigated to a report of someone sleeping in a tent on campus. They told Barley to come out with his hands up, but the officers quickly realized Barley was no danger. They listened to his story.
The biology major, who dreams of going to medical school one day, told the officers he thought the bushes on campus would be a much safer place for him to sleep than staying in his tent in Conyers.
Barley told Channel 2 Action News, “He was so understanding and he said, ‘I definitely I applaud you for doing this. We can’t allow you to stay here, but I have somewhere you can stay.”
The officers took him to a motel and paid for two nights. Then word got out on social media and in the community after one officer’s wife posted the story on a Barnesville community Facebook page.
One person and the motel owner paid for Barley to stay in his room until he can get into the dorms, which are allowing him to move in on Monday. A local pizzeria, DB’s Pizzeria, hired him on as a dishwasher.
“The most shocking part is so many people coming to help a stranger, because honestly in today’s society this sounds like a scam,” Barley said about his story.
People donated clothes, school supplies, shoes, a new bike and they are working to get him a car. A GoFundMe page has raised nearly $9,000 in two days.
Barley says despite all of that, for which he is extremely grateful, it’s the people that mean the most.
“Some of the gifts aren’t as important as the friends I’ve made. More important than everything, the clothes, the shoes, the relationships mean so much more to me,” he said.
One of those connections is Amber Shoemake, who lost her son Leland to a rare brain infection last year. She says she felt an instant need to help Fred.
“God bless this sweet guy. Proud to call him a friend,” Amber Shoemake wrote about Fred Barley.
“It’s sad because we would do anything to have our child with us, and for him to just be out there with no family, it completely broke my heart,” she said.
Barley plans to attend church with Shoemake and her family Sunday.
He says God has been the driving force that keeps him going.
“The Bible says, ‘You can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ so I know I can,” he said. “My legs are working. Millions of people walk and bike to work every day. I definitely think I can bike a couple hours to get to my future.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.