ST. LOUIS - When you see people standing on the side of the road carrying a sign asking for money because they're homeless or out of a job, do you give them money?
Giving to the needy is important but homeless advocates want you to go about it the right way.
We traveled around St. Louis city with Alvin Ferguson who is part of the mobile outreach unit for the St. Patrick Center. He drives all over the city looking for people who are homeless and encourages them to let St. Patrick Center help them with food and shelter. Ferguson also sees panhandlers on a regular basis. They usually want a few bucks but he says other people do what's called "flying".
They make asking for money a regular job and make good money. St. Patrick Center publicly asked people not to give to panhandlers last year when multiple people overdosed on the drug K2. Many of them were homeless and took the drugs because it is so cheap. We interviewed a man who got his life back thanks to St. Patrick Center.
Jeffrey Williams was once one of the top panhandlers in the city. He made $700 dollars on the night the Cardinals won the world series in 2011. He stood outside of Busch Stadium and asked people to give to him because he was a homeless, disabled veteran. Williams says he spent all of the money on drugs and alcohol. He has since broken his addiction and has his own apartment. He credits St. Patrick's veteran program with turning his life around.
Organizations that provide services to the homeless:
- St. Patrick Center
- Peter and Paul Community Services
- Covenant House
- Homeless Shelter Directory
- Metro St. Louis Coalition for the Homeless