Amazon exec reveals homeless past on NYC streets: ‘It was brutal’

Amazon exec reveals homeless past on NYC streets: ‘It was brutal’
From homeless to high-powered exec — this businessman is the embodiment of the American Dream. Amazon’s head of external affairs is speaking out about his turbulent childhood, revealing he spent the first 11 years of his life living on the mean streets of New York City. David Ambroz, 42, grew up begging in the Big Apple with his “mentally ill” mom and two siblings before he was adopted by a loving foster mom and began an incredible rise to the top.
“It was brutal,” the businessman candidly recalls of homelessness in a new essay for Newsweek. “We slept in public spaces, shelters and churches that took us in. These stays were too infrequent, and we always ended up homeless again.
” Ambroz reveals that he “bathed in fast-food restaurant bathrooms” and felt that New Yorkers were “indifferent” to his suffering. In a particularly poignant anecdote, Ambroz said he spent a day begging for money at Grand Central Station when he was just 4 — only to be ignored by wealthy commuters rushing to work from their Metro-North trains. “I begged there often enough, but I remember this day well because no one would look at me,” he heartbreakingly writes.
“Hundreds of people walked past and ignored me. I realized in that moment that my family was invisible to these people. ” The Amazon exec adds: “I was starving, filthy and covered in lice.
But I knew, even then, that I would climb out of this state. ” Ambroz’s incredible tale of perseverance is more fully told in his new memoir “A Place Called Home,” which has even earned a glowing endorsement from Hillary Clinton. At 12, he was placed into foster care, but spent years being shuffled from home to home until he was finally adopted by a loving woman named Holly.
Without much formal schooling, Ambroz said he simply studied hard with Holly’s encouragement and was eventually accepted for a study abroad grant in Spain. The life-changing trip helped the then-teen to acquire enough credits for high school graduation, and he was accepted into Vassar College. “Education was my way out of poverty,” he declares in his essay for Newsweek.
A campus job at Vassar led Ambroz to a coveted White House internship. Before long, he acquired a Juris Doctor degree from the UCLA School of Law before being snapped up by the legal and business affairs teams at ABC. Ambroz was eventually tasked with leading corporate social responsibility at Walt Disney Television, with the job allowing him to hobnob with some of the world’s most powerful people.
“For more than a decade, I led the philanthropic efforts at Disney’s TV networks. I met the famous and influential — and had the chance to influence storytelling across all of the networks,” he writes in his Newsweek essay. Late last year, Ambroz made the move to Amazon, where he is now head of external affairs.
A post shared by David Ambroz (@hjdambroz) For years, the businessman struggled to shake off the “shame” of homelessness, but has since become a prominent advocate for foster care and is now telling his story in full. Ambroz has even become a foster parent in a bid to give other children the opportunities that Holly gave to him. “I got here today because of the rare angels who helped me, like my foster mom Holly,” he declared.
“Not everyone will be able to adopt or foster. But we can all try to raise awareness and, at the very least, we can all care. ”.