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Homeless does not mean hopeless: How this QC couple is helping others get back on their feet

Dwain and Sara Womack started Street Friends five years ago to help combat homelessness in the Quad Cities.

MOLINE, Ill. — “We're acting like it's freezing out. Can you imagine laying there on the street” asks Julie Rodman.

It was a chilly March day when News 8's Effrage Davis with Rodman about her nominations of Dwain and Sara Womack for the Pay It Forward Award. She went to school with Dwain and about five years ago she found he was helping out his street friends.

The name "street friends" was brought to Dwain's attention through his friend Brad Barton who use to be a Quad City Mallards hockey player.

“I’d seen some videos of his where he was walking around Canada passing out socks and stuff. And he was calling these people "street friends," said Dwain. "So, I called him and was like, 'Brad why do call these people street friends?' He said, 'Dwain, how would you like to be called homeless?' And I’m like, 'I wouldn’t.'”

So, Dwain borrowed the name street friends and created Street Friends of the Quad Cities. This group came about due to Sara’s awareness of street friends she saw on her way to work every morning outside of King's Harvest. 

Dwain used to be an EMT and firefighter before he got injured. He said he loves giving back to his community, so when his wife told him about the homeless people she saw, he immediately sprang into action. 

That day he went out and met their first two street friends.

“90% of our people that live on the streets don’t want to be there,” said Dwain. 

He shared a beautiful story about one of their street friends. 

“Our friend Pauly D that passed away three years ago. He had got injured in a car accident and messed up his leg and he was from Wisconsin and he had no place to stay," Dwain said. "He didn’t think he had a place to stay anywhere so he came here for some odd reason … Pauly passed away in the river and come to find out once we got a hold of his family, he was very much loved and they would help out but he didn’t know that at the time and addiction again is a bad thing."

The group itself is always in need of supplies for the people they help.

“We always need blankets, hygiene products, coats, hats,” said Dwain.

“They help them with furniture, clothing, blankets, getting them jobs, finding placed for them to live," said Julie.

They help people get anything they need whether they are on the street or trying to get out. 

“It's really neat that jobs are coming available for them but it's hard to hear somebody couldn’t take that job because they didn’t have the steel toe boots and their job that they were going to wasn’t open to letting them get a pair of boots and take it out of their first paycheck,” said Dwain. 

The shelter had contacted Dwain and his wife and one way or another they were able to get their friend the needed shoes so that way they could work.

It can be challenging to get off the street. 

“It's kind of like a catch-22 for them because they don’t have, you know, the money to even afford an ID along with the other documentation just to even fill out the application," said Sara. 

One way they help provide materials for their street friends is when Dwain dresses up as Santa Claus during the holiday season. They said the Christmas tradition started because of their granddaughters.

“When I brought him the pictures of the girls crying on Santa’s lap that’s when he decided to go you know, just buy a cheap suit so they wouldn’t be scared," Sara said. "Friends of ours thought he made a good Santa. So he would go and do little things for people that we knew. And then those people told other people…people would say how much do you charge for Santa? And well just tell them make a donation to street friends."

The Santa suit has been upgraded as well.

They have also worked with the Davenport City Council to help provide needed items to their street friends. The city has an account for certain items that can be donated. They then would call Dwain and Sara and let them know the amount they have available. Next, they would set up a time to meet with someone from the city to go shopping get the supplies they needed, and the city would pay for it.

If you would like to donate, they have an account at TBK Bank. All you have to do is go to the bank and let them know you would like to give a donation to Street Friends of the Quad Cities and the money will go into their account.

If you would like to volunteer your time, you can join their Facebook page, they’ll post when they are going out into the community. You can reach out to Dwain and Sara anytime.

Street Friends of the Quad Cities use to have a bus that would go around the QCA and anyone could go on the bus and grab the things that they needed. However, due to the pandemic, they did not have enough money for maintenance and insurance, so now they are back to doing deliveries out of their truck.

They have built relationships with homeless shelters and organizations throughout the Quad Cities.

“When we have way too much stuff or not enough room in our garage, we do donate directly to Humility of Mary Shelter and The Oasis in East Moline," said Dwain. "And there are other organizations that we work with. If they need something they can call me and I'll work with them and give them whatever they need. And same with us. If we need something we can make a post or whatever and they’re there to help us."

Anyone can help the homeless no matter how big or small the gesture is.

“Have extra blankets that you’re not going to use? Keep them in your trunk and if you see somebody in need, give it to them” said Sara.

Do you know someone that goes above and beyond for his or her community? News 8 and Ascentra Credit Union would like to help you Pay it Forward to them. Click here to nominate someone you know.

See previous Pay It Forward award winners: 

Watch more Pay It Forward stories on News 8's YouTube channel

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