By Valencia Wickervwicker@abcnews4.com
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Chris Gardner knows the struggles of homelessness.
In the 80s, at the age of 23, Gardner's family fell apart and he was left to raise his 14-month-old son without a home. He and his son spent a year sleeping in public bathrooms and shelters.
"When I lived in that bathroom with my son, I had to wash my son everyday and I had to look in this mirror and I had to ask myself everyday, 'Why did this happen?'" said Gardner. "But, the most brutal question that I had to ask myself was, 'How did I get here?'"
Gardner says confronting his situation and taking responsibility for it was his first step to independence.
"The truth of the matter is, once I accepted that I drove here, well the other side is, if I drove here, I can drive out of here," said Gardner.
Gardner's life story caught the world's attention when it was turned into a film titled "The Pursuit of Happyness." The movie earned $27 million in its opening week.
Now decades later, Gardner travels the world as a motivational speaker and advocate for what he calls "a new class of homeless."
"I call them white-collar homeless. Went to school, worked hard and played by the rules and the world changes," said Gardner.
Gardner says he wants to change the perception of who is homeless and teach others that homelessness can happen to anyone.
"These are now working people with families who are having these challenges," Gardner said. "These are also our veterans whom we so much talk about supporting our troops. Well, they shouldn't be heroes in Afghanistan and homeless in America."
Gardner spoke at the Charleston Place Hotel. He donated $10,000 to Crisis Ministries.