Good Samaritan: A Man of the People
How one local is doing his part to help the homeless
By Daryl MoorePosted Jul 11, 2012
You might say that Brian Garner is a man of the people – better yet, you might say that he is a man of the underprivileged people. Through a program he calls Brian’s Progressive Outreach, located in Baton Rouge, Garner uses his own money to purchase food and other supplies for local homeless shelters and their patrons.
Since 2008, Garner has organized events to aid the homeless every quarter or so, usually at the One Stop Homeless Shelter, spending around $1,000 each time. Not only does he provide food through these events, but Garner also distributes articles of clothing, razors and electric shavers, cell phone chargers, and other personal items. He also organizes an annual back-to-school “Backpack Giveaway” in an effort to provide underprivileged kids with the necessary supplies that a school requires of its students. While Garner does purchase some of these things himself, most products he brings to shelters are items that have been donated by the local community.
“There are a lot of homeless people here in Baton Rouge,” said Garner. “Some of them know how to get help, [and] some don’t. The bad thing about it is we have a lot of young people who are homeless, ages 20-27, and a lot of pregnant teenage girls. All of them have a story, just like the rest of us.”
Not only does Garner provide the food at some of the local shelters, but he is also known to cook for the underprivileged of Baton Rouge as well. He recently placed highly at this year’s Juneteenth cook-off.
When asked to explain how his aid process came about, Garner took a moment, then opened right up.
Having left Louisiana after high school to play college ball, Garner returned a few years later and stumbled upon inspiration he didn’t even know he needed.
“At first, I was working with a social club named Bold and Beautiful,” said Garner. “Shortly after I moved back [here] from Florida, Baton Rouge hit a bad cold snap.”
He then paused and took a moment to break some things down for me. He pointed out that there is a large space under the overpass bridge that takes you into downtown Baton Rouge.
“In that area,” Garner said, “there are about 30 or 40 homeless people who may be living there. A lot of homeless [people] don’t like to live in the shelter because of the rules and guidelines. Every now and then the city will come through and offer them a one-way ticket anywhere in the U.S. just to get them out [from under the bridge].”
Garner recalled that during the “cold snap” he started bringing the homeless food and donated items.
“And that’s how it started,” he said.
However, he noted, the homeless aren’t just confined to areas under interstate overpasses. On the contrary, there are homeless people all over.
“There’s a whole homeless community by the levee,” Garner said. “They’re very protective and don’t want to talk to people who are outside of their community or comfort zone. I just go down there with a pot of beans and rice and talk with them.”
Garner also volunteers at the Parker House and cooks for everyone there.
“I play football with some of the kids and bring donated bikes, toys, etcetera, to their drop-off point. I’m open for anything and looking for anything, especially for charity,” he said.
To that end, the “500 Backpacks Giveaway” is an important project here in Baton Rouge.
“The week before school starts,” said Garner, “we get backpacks donated from everywhere – from places like Footlocker and Academy Sports, to places like Wal-Mart and Office Depot.”
Any money donated to the cause is used to purchase other school supplies that likely aren’t included in one of the giveaway’s backpacks, which come stocked with school supplies already.
“I know other places are doing similar projects, but we have a lot of needy people here so we try and help out any way we can,” he said. “It’s a process, but if you keep working toward something, [you will succeed].”
To learn more about Brian’s Progressive Outreach program, including donation and volunteer information, call 225.993.1663.