The Invisible America

ABOUT Penney Carlton

Penney Carlton
Bio   Penny Carlton worked with non-profit organizations in New York State, before an interesting twist of fate took her to Nashville where she served as Associate Producer for the TLC reality series, “Tuckerville”.  From there she went on to write, produce and obtain regional distri More...



The Book

From beginning to end The Invisible America breaks every stereotype as we meet   women, men and families that live hidden beneath the statistics. Anyone can become homeless. Though we would like to believe that the more friends, family, and resources one has, the less likely it is we or someone we love will become homeless. And homelessness is growing at an alarming rate in America.  

The Invisible America is not the story of the repulsiveness of homelessness or the cold statistics; it is the amazing story of human survival, perseverance, dignity and faith. Lives, which at one time were not so different than yours. It is their story. It is my story.

It’s not what you see…

It’s what you don’t see

The Invisible America The Preface It was on a hot, humid August day in 2006 when I first met her. She was sitting on a bench on Demonbruen Street just off the infamous Music Row in Nashville, TN. Her faded blonde hair was pulled neatly in a bun. Though her face was deeply tanned and weathered, her eyes were a crystal blue and when they caught mine, something resonated deep within me. Looking at her from the face up one might think she was someone’s grandmother waiting for her children to finish their shopping at one of the upscale shops that are across the street from the bench she sat. Or perhaps they dined at one of the quaint restaurants that catered to the music industry and the well dressed young people of the city that stood across the street from the bench where she sat. But then you notice…she’s dressed in layers of clothing, way too many layers of clothing for a 90 plus degree day; and you quickly realize the layers of clothing she’s piled on herself have probably never seen a washing machine. Heavy black boots hide her feet from the occasional warm breeze that stirs the dusty, dried leaves on the street. Sitting beside her is a large, tattered suitcase, a neatly folded blanket and a smaller opened suitcase holding trinkets and CD’s, which I later found to be her ‘store.’ People give her things and she promptly adds them to her ‘store’ and sells them. I couldn’t help but notice how she held her cigarette with an air of sophistication as she watched the people walk by, many totally oblivious to her presence there. Yet, it was evident to me … that bench was her home. Truth be known, I’m not sure I would have noticed her had it not been for the fact that we needed the bench she sat on. I was helping a friend shoot the opening scene for a TV comedy pilot. The sequence called for a battered, dirty, homeless man to be sitting on a bench with a sign propped in his lap which read, “will work for free” as our star sat beside him with a bottle of Jack Daniels wrapped in a brown bag. The two would commiserate over the lack of good jobs and our star would offer the man a swig of Jack. I would like to believe we were naïve at the time, because today I find no humor in that scene. Regardless of what I think or feel now, in order to accomplish securing that bench for a few hours to shoot the scene, we paid the woman with the neatly done hair and the eyes of blue crystal, ten dollars to vacate her bench. She packed up her belongings, shook our hands and walked across the street to the small gourmet coffee shop. Once again I couldn’t help but notice how blue her eyes were and how deeply they spoke. During the hours it took to shoot the 30 second scene, I went over to the coffee shop numerous times to refill my coffee and get iced tea or water for the crew. I’d see her through the shop’s window and watched her write on a yellow legal tablet and wondered what words she was lost in. As I’d walk through the shop’s door without fail she would lift her head and draw me directly into her gaze. I’d give her a faint smile, before walking quickly to the counter, anxious at the time to get away from the truths held in her eyes. Little did I know her eyes held the stories that would change my life forever… (C) 2009 Penny Carlton

From the cover to the final sentence…Powerful!!!!  Thank you for sharing your story with the world. Blessings to you as you move forward, onward and upward. I was totally captivated by the individual stories of those you met in your journey in capturing the essence of ‘the least of these’ in your documentary and then the personal struggles you endured as God drew you closer to His divine purpose


God has great plans for you! Like Job remaining faithful to God when even his friends and wife, suggested he “should just curse God and die,” your faith shines through. 


A must read…for such a time as this!!


Fran Pollett Nikel




Penny and I have been friends for a long time and I must admit, I am one of those who preached practicality while secretly yearning to walk away from my ‘practical’ life and embrace spirituality to the degree she seems to have accomplished. To live solely by faith, dependent on God for my very existence, to know Him in a much more real, more complete way. A level many aspire to but seldom reach.


Could I walk away from my well-ordered, beautifully orchestrated life?


No, after years of insecurity and instability, I must have those things ~ things so many don’t have….employment, food, clothing, a home. I don’t mean to indicate I live a luxurious life, far from it. My car is not new, my home not modern or fancy, but, by the grace of God, they are mine.


I’ve seen the documentary, listened to the stories, heard the weeping of Penny’s soul as she recounted day after day of unspeakable helplessness laced with extraordinary hope and unshakable faith – the kind of faith I ~and many~ long to experience, to claim.


I highly recommend this book to all those who yearn to understand and desire to make a difference. 


Pamela S Thibodeaux, Author

“Inspirational with an Edge!” ™