ALPHARETTA, Ga. - Sometimes you meet a true friend, when you least expect it.
Steve Walton, 64, was homeless, fighting terminal cancer and living in a tent in the woods in Alpharetta when a kind man stopped and sparked up a conversation with him. The weather was turning cold and Patrick Ferguson said he just couldn’t let Steve stay out there.
So Patrick and his wife got him a hotel room for a couple of nights and thanks to the kindness of strangers on NextDoor, Steve is still there five months later.
They're not only friends, Steve Walton calls Patrick Ferguson his angel.
"He’s been my angel. He has been like a Godsend to me," explains Steve.
"He’s a great guy. We became friends. I’d see him every now and again and buy him lunch that kind of thing and our relationship grew and I wanted to help him out," adds Patrick.
Patrick helped to get steve off the streets and set up in a local hotel. It was only supposed to be for a few nights, and then he found a post on NextDoor asking, “Does anyone know what happened to the man living behind CVS in a tent?”
"I’m like, I know who you’re talking about…his name is Steve. I told them about Steve’s story— about being ill and needing some assistance— and we’ve got him in a hotel and he’s doing okay," recalls Patrick.
One post on NextDoor about Steve received 300 kind comments. Donations began pouring in to help Steve stay at the hotel. Now there’s even a meal train, where strangers volunteer to bring Steve homecooked meals.
Steve has terminal prostate cancer, along with some other health issues. He's kept the hundreds of heartfelt cards from strangers and reads over them when he’s having a tough day.
"I couldn’t be more proud of our community and the folks in Alpharetta. There’s been a huge outpouring of love," Patrick says.
And Patrick hopes to continue spreading that love. "Outreach teams have recently found that there are 344 homeless people in the Alpharetta area. You don’t see them and you don’t know that they’re there because their job is to hide from the public," he explains.
Patrick is working to grow, "Alpharetta Gives" a Facebook page with the goal of helping Steve, and others.
"We want to reach out to those 344 people. A lot of people are homeless because of alcoholism, or addiction, or mental illness, or they’re just down on their luck. Some people want help, others don't, and those that do want help, that can be helped…we want to reach out and get them off the street and give them a second chance," Patrick says.
A second chance, like the one Patrick gave to his friend, Steve. They joke that “homeless Steve” has now become “famous Steve."
"Thank everyone in the neighborhood for caring about me and believing in me and helping me out," Steve says. "It’s nice. It makes you really believe that there’s a God."
Normally Steve receives treatments for his prostate cancer from Emory Hospital and they help to get him transportation back and forth. Covid-19 has stopped some of those treatments.
Patrick says Steve is paid up at the hotel through May and he's not exactly sure what will happen after that.
If you’d like to help Steve, or others struggling with homelessness in Alpharetta, just visit the "Alpharetta Gives" Facebook page to learn more.