ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KTVI) — A homeless woman’s description of life over the past year on the streets of St. Louis with her 1-year-old son is going viral. Now, she and her baby are getting help from strangers who came from hundreds of miles away to help.
Tears ran down Melena Johnson’s face when she spoke with St. Louis affiliate FOX 2’s Elliott Davis in a video posted to Facebook on November 2, 2018. Thousands of people reacted to the story. So far it has reached over 2.5 million people.
Johnson says that she was staying in vacant buildings. Authorities have boarded up the home she was staying at during the warmer months. Now, she is sleeping on the sidewalk.
The Biddle House is no longer letting homeless people stay there during the day. The days can get very cold during the winter in St. Louis. Services can be hard to setup if you don’t have the proper credentials or access to a phone and internet.
“I could give up, man. I’ve been running for a long time. There ain’t nowhere to go. They’re not helping me. St. Patrick’s, you have to call a hotline to get a place to stay out of the cold. Why do they need your identity, social security card or birth certificate to stay warm?” said Melena Johnson.
Johnson says she has been homeless for about a year. She faces fines for sleeping outside.
“There is nowhere to go. I have a warrant for sleeping on the sidewalk. I didn’t have anywhere else to go but the sidewalk. He said that ‘if you come back, I’ll write you up.’ I went back to the heat and sat there to get warm. He wrote me a ticket. I said that before I go to jail for sleeping on the sidewalk, the jail system won’t get a dime from me. You’ll have to catch me first before I pay you for sleeping on the sidewalk,” said Melena Johnson.
Davis asks Johnson how people can reach her, how they can help. She says that you can find her on the streets of downtown St. Louis.
Elliott Davis caught up with Melena Johnson and her young son Wednesday. She says that some kind person came from an hour and a half away to pay for a week-long stay at a downtown hotel after her plea went viral on Facebook. The man bought them groceries, clothes, and other necessities. She says she met others from Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities that knew her story and came to help them.
“I never thought that people on this earth loved me in these 40-something years. It turns out to be something different. I don’t think I should think like that anymore when there is someone out there caring for me, and they don’t even know me,” said Melena Johnson.
Johnson’s stay indoors only lasts a week. But, it may give her and her son some time to get the help they need.