Sally Becker Segerson is doing the best that one woman can to provide Fort Wayne’s homeless population.
The Fort Wayne philanthropist has been running her Street Reach for the Homeless service for about the last eight years, and the program continues to run strong, handing out much-needed clothes, make-shift shelters and food to those who are most needy in Fort Wayne.
But she said her program is about more than just giving out some gloves, tents and hearty meals – it’s really about seeing the homeless as fellow humans.
“A lot of times,” she said, “people focus on the fact that they’re homeless, and not on the person.”
About twice a week, Segerson goes out into the community to give away several items the homeless likely need, she said. Those folks usually will find out about where she’ll be by checking her Facebook page, where Segerson will post the latest congregation spot.
Sadly, she can’t publicize the give-away spots more widely, because some people will come to gawk or make fun of the people she’s helping, an unfortunate occurrence she’s had to deal with in the past.
The program began in the winter of 2011, according to Segerson, when she noticed a group of homeless people who had “fallen between the cracks.” So she began going out to several spots around town to give away much-needed items to the homeless population.
And then, when she was out bringing supplies to a group of homeless men, a light bulb went off.
“One day,” she said, “I was out talking to a couple of the guys, and I said, ‘What if I came to you, instead of you coming to me?’”
To help, Segerson’s program will give the people just about anything they need, from boots, to tents to sleep in, to hand warmers, to gloves, to comforters for the long, cold, winter nights.
She also offers the homeless folks warm meals, if they’d like one. “That’s why I call it ‘Dinner and Duds,’” Segerson said.
A recent meal served to folks downtown included a hot entrée (this time it was chicken and dumplings and mashed potatoes, an optional side (corn bread, green bean casserole, macaroni salad, potato salad), and chocolate pudding for desert. Often, Segerson said, she’ll also hand out $5 gift cards for local fast-food restaurants, as well.
Segerson said she’ll continue doing this until the problem is solved, and added, “As the years have gone by, I’ve seen the issues, and have become a vocal advocate as I vow to make a difference. Across this country, we have people out there who are the most at-risk, the most humble of our homeless, who are simply falling between the cracks. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, they are my neighbors. They are human beings. They matter each and every day and night and they deserve our attention.”
“On the streets,” she continued, “I will stay as long as they stay, as long as ‘housing first’ is not the standard in this city and I can stay no longer. To this day, I say this is a God-led, God-protected street ministry, and I’m honored to be there under the stars with these precious men, women and families.”
Those wishing to donate to Segerson’s cause can contact her through the group’s Facebook page, “Street Reach for the Homeless” or drop off gently-used clothing or non-perishable food items at Pembroke Bakery in the Auer Building, 303 E. Main Street, at Self-Image, located at 4646 N. Jefferson Blvd., or at Evolve Spa, 4930 Illinois Road.