WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KFDX) — Although the number of homeless people in Texas has declined almost 42 percent from 2007 to 2016, 23,000 people are still on the streets.
Many times you may have seen someone on a street corner holding up a sign asking for money. You may have even given them some cash, but have you ever wondered if that money was spent on necessities or did it go to vices like alcohol or cigarettes?
In a special report, Samaria Terry wanted to find out. But also find out how you can really help the homeless in the community.
We bought four $25 gift cards which could be spent on anything and handed them out. We were able to track the purchases to see where the money actually was spent and what was purchased. This was just a small snapshot of what happens on the streets, but what’s the bigger picture? How can you really help those in the community who have fallen on hard times?
How do you see homelessness in Texoma?
“There’s nobody in Wichita Falls that doesn’t recognize the fact that we have a homeless problem,” said Faith Mission Site Director Clay Kahler. “You go down Broad Street, you go down Holliday, and you see it. Unfortunately, the vast majority of polite society overlooks it and that’s where we step in.”
Some people don’t overlook the problem and try to help people they see on the street. Many hand out spare cash, but is that they right thing to do?
“The problem with giving the guy money who’s standing out on the highway is that you don’t know what he’s going to do with it,” Kahler said.
So we decided to give out the gift cards to four randomly chosen homeless people in Wichita Falls.
We maintained the card information which allowed us to track the purchases, and within 24 hours, the cards had been spent.
In all, just over $29.04 was spent on food, $13.12 was spent on alcohol, while $40.25 was spent on cigarettes and cigars. $17.59 of the money we could not track.
“I used to spend it on drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes,” said Jerome Blake. “Maybe pay somebody to take me somewhere to a drug house or something like that. That’s the harsh reality of it all.”
Blake said he’s been homeless for 3 years and battled addiction for 30. He’s 75 days clean while in the Faith Mission’s 13 month alcohol and drug program.
“I’ve realigned myself with Christ and it’s a good feeling,” Blake said.
“Our mission statement is we provide Christ-centered programs and services that lead the homeless towards self-sufficiency,” said Kahler.
Faith Mission said all of their funding comes from grants and donations. Their goal is to end homelessness in Texoma.
“You take somebody who has an addiction, no matter what the addiction may be and you give them the means to satisfy that addiction, that’s what they’re going to do,” said Kahler. “And that’s what I caution people against giving money as opposed to giving food or donating to an organization that can actually help them.”
Help that sometimes money can’t buy. But volunteering, donating money or clothing to organizations like Faith Mission can go along way to putting some of these folks’ feet back on the ground.
For more information on how you can help combat homelessness in Texoma, click here.