MADISON (WKOW)-- Many of us walk by them and don't think twice. But a Madison woman walked past the homeless in downtown Madison and knew she wanted to do something to reach out. It makes Suzanne Alexander 'Someone You Should Know.'
It's Tuesday morning at 8:30. Suzanne Alexander gets the discussion started. Alexander leads a book club at Bethel Lutheran Church in downtown Madison.
It's a book club for the homeless.
"It's much harder to approach someone on the street that you don't know," said Suzanne. "But you come into this setting and you have a book in common."
Alexander says she wanted to reach out and try to help. While she couldn't give them a home. She could give them a community.
"Because I think if you can understand the homeless situation and connect with them individually it takes a lot of the fear out of it," said Suzanne.
The group of about 20, mostly men, read a different book every 5 weeks. They are currently reading 'Tiger Force', which is based on true events during the Vietnam War.
Some book club members are well educated, some are Veterans, some may have made a bad decision or two in the lives.
"Don't judge a book by its cover," said Tom.
Tom Hennelly moved to Madison last fall after he lost his job in Chicago.
"I'm a high school graduate," said Tom. "I spent three years in college."
"They don't hand you a manual that says here's how to be homeless," said Tom.
He looks forward to Tuesday mornings.
"You can speak out and say whatever is on your mind," said Tom. "Sometimes it's about the book, sometimes we talk about society, some times we talk about politics."
Hennelly says the book club wouldn't be the same without Suzanne Alexander leading the way.
"She's the main force behind this thing," said Tom.
"I think that they really enjoy being treated with dignity and respect that we aim to show them," said Suzanne.
A room of strangers with their own stories of how they got here; bonded by the simple act of reading a book.
"People have been stabilizing their lives slowly moving into housing, finding some regularity and a pattern and a community to connect with," said Suzanne. "I love being a part of that and I'd love to see that continue to grow."
The group even video conferences with authors when they have a chance which has been very rewarding and confidence building for participants.