Kyle Brothers says his life would be much different without the help of complete strangers.
The South Philadelphia resident transformed his life on the streets from homelessness to becoming a successful entrepreneur and business owner. Now he wants to help others do the same.
“It was the turning point of my life because I realized I had to make a decision and go 100-percent right or wrong,” recalled Brothers, now 39. “It wasn’t easy, but it was better than looking over my shoulder every night and worrying about going to jail or ending up dead.”
Brothers moved to the 7th Street Community in South Philly with foster parents at the age of 11 after both his biological parents passed away that same year in 1992. Once he reached adulthood, Brothers fell on tougher times, trying to make it on his own. A part-time job wasn’t paying the bills and soon he found himself on the streets after he could no longer afford rent.
“They raised my rent and I had to move out,” he said. “I was only making $600 a month so I was out and had nowhere to go.”
A man whom Brothers called a “complete stranger” let him sleep on the floor of his apartment some nights while Brothers tried to save money for another place at age 22. Other nights, he wasn’t so lucky.
“He was a complete stranger and he let me sleep on his floor and take a shower there sometimes,” Brothers said of Matthew Bowman. “But some nights he didn’t answer his phone, I would have to stay out in the neighborhood or on a step all night. It was a crazy time in my life.”
The financial struggles transitioned into selling drugs for survival.
“A lot of nights, I would walk around the neighborhood, wondering what I was going to do next,” Brothers said. “I just didn’t have a clue. That’s when I started selling drugs. I got to a point where I was fed up. I had no money and nothing to do. I knew selling drugs was wrong but I had to do something to get out of this situation.”
But the situation got worse. Brothers said his friends started turning up dead and he feared he was next. That’s when he believes another stranger saved his life.
“I was riding around one night and a car was following me,” Brothers said. “I either thought I was going to get kidnapped or killed. I rode around for a while. I had a gun on me. I figured if I got down to 6th and Snyder, I was going to get out and start shooting because at that point, it’s going to be me or him. But I got to 6th and McKean and found a cop at the corner with his lights on and I pulled over there. The other car drove off. That cop will never know but he saved my life that night.”
It was the wakeup call Brothers needed. Still working his part-time job, he stopped selling drugs and started pursuing legal business opportunities. He talked to acquaintances who owned businesses and decided to start his own cleaning service while holding on to his part-time job. He put in extra work after his overnight job let out. In the meantime, Bowman helped Brothers find an apartment in his building.
“It started by putting fliers on people’s cars and under restaurant doors at 3 in the morning in Center City,” Brothers said. “I looked pretty suspicious. But I started cleaning carpets to get my foot in the door to talk to businesses to try to get contracts.”
It worked. Brothers officially started a business in 2007, and the company cleaned office buildings and Sprint stores through a subcontractor. Before long, he had 16 employees working under him. Last year, he started a property management company called Regmar Property Management Services LLC, where he is the president and CEO.
Upon finding success, Brothers wanted to perhaps be the complete stranger that would someday help others. Just recently, he started The Philanthropy Group in an effort to help out people who struggled through similar circumstances.
His team has hosted homeless assistance events and worked with organizations to help mentor youths, creating a program called “Youth Talk Sessions.” Brothers hopes to help people find assistance to pay bills, buy groceries or find clothes for job interviews.
He’s also planning on starting a program called “Reinstating The Homeless,” geared toward getting homeless individuals into permanent housing along with finding them permanent employment, counseling and other services,
“For the majority of my adult life, when I needed a helping hand myself, it wasn’t always the people I considered longtime close friends or family,” Brothers said. “It was mainly total strangers, people I’ve only known for a brief period of time at that point. This is my way of paying it forward, by being that stranger to others that may be in need, that I do not know at all.”