Rams Defensive Ends William Hayes, Chris Long Go “Homeless” To Raise Awareness
A chance conversation about the homeless while riding the St. Louis Rams’ team bus would eventually lead William Hayes and Chris Long on an expedition into homelessness. Hayes and Long both play defensive end for the Rams, and while life encounters made Hayes sympathetic to the homeless, Long didn’t give them much thought.
So Hayes asked Long if he would take part in an experiment to find out what homelessness was really like. He agreed. So they took to the streets with no cell phones, no credit cards, $8 between them, and nowhere to go. It was a trek that would change both of their lives.
For 24 hours Hayes and Long “lived on the streets.” They panhandled, sheltered in an abandoned warehouse, endured harsh stares and sub-40-degree temperatures, and slept in the back of an empty box truck. The experience left its mark.
At the end of the day they reconnected with Marty and Nancy, two of the homeless people they had met the night before. Both Marty and Nancy were on the road because they fell on hard times.
Hayes and Long decided to put them up in an extended stay hotel for two months. They also gave them disposable cell phones, groceries, and bus passes with the hope that this would help change their lives for the better.
For several years, the Rams’ defensive line has made donations to The St. Patrick Center, a local homeless resource. But although Long made donations, he readily admitted after his experience, “We don’t understand.” He continued, “We weren’t hoping to understand. We were just hoping to gain a little perspective and put kind of a feeling with the cause that we had been [donating to] from a distance the last couple of years.”
During his time on the road, Hayes said he disliked the disapproving looks of strangers who judged him by his appearance, and Long learned to appreciate that the homeless are just that: homeless. They aren’t faceless and nameless.