“570,000 people in American are homeless on any given day. What do you think when you see them on the streets? Have you ever wondered what got them there? Does it matter? Do you look the other way? I kind of did. Until now.” – Chris Long, St Louis Rams DE
As the St. Louis Ram’s team bus inched through the city, players Chris Long and William Hayes talked about the homeless men and women they observed out the window. William decided that he wanted to make a difference. But to effectively make a sustainable difference, he first wanted to understand what it was like to be in their shoes.
To truly understand the plight of their homeless neighbors, Chris and William did something incredibly out of the ordinary. They decided to become homeless themselves.
The two Defensive End players went undercover. They wore distressed clothing, donned sunglasses and makeup, and ventured out into the city. They left their cell phones at home and had only $4 each. An undercover camera crew documented the journey. The football players didn’t want to make a scene or be recognized.
Watch the video:
“You’re not a normal person anymore,” Chris said. He noted that if they had a better appearance or wore more attractive clothing, they may have been treated differently by the people they encountered. After sleeping just one night on the streets, their bodies hurt.
The next day, Chris and William went back to talk with Marty and Nancy, two chronically homeless individuals that they had met the day before. On the spot, William offered to buy them a month at an extended stay hotel. Chris jumped in and offered to pay for a second month. “The causes of homelessness are multiple and so layered,” Chris learns. This gave Marty and Nancy the chance to focus on change and job hunting, while receiving a good nights sleep.
After just three weeks, Marty was working in construction and Nancy was receiving outreach support to recover from her life on the street. By having somewhere to live and nutritious food to eat, they were both able to pursue life transformation and permanent housing.
Both Chris and William visited St. Patrick Center, an organization that helps over 8,000 homeless individuals each year. They strive to help people move from homelessness to independence, much like Nashville Rescue Mission. The St. Louis Rams support the center, but neither of the men had ever visited the building. “I can’t stop thinking about the people who work in these places [Missions], tackling these issues every single day,” Chris shared after his St. Patrick Center visit.
“Now when I see a homeless person, I see lives on detour … human beings looking to reclaim their identity. Thanks to William’s idea, I just can’t look away anymore.”