A Woodbury woman wanted to lend a helping hand, so she fed and clothed a homeless couple -- but when she came home, she learned someone had helped themselves to her checkbook.
People who serve the community for a living say many people want to give to the homeless directly, and a new person will approach someone on the street with a donation at least once a month. Unfortunately, some will view the well-intentioned as easy targets.
"I just met them down here. I didn't know them. I took them, after hearing it was her birthday, to go get dinner. Got their story," Nicki Coombs recalled.
Compassion led Coombs to help the couple she met in front of Dorothy Day in St. Paul last week. She let the couple into her car, took them out for tacos and then to Sears to buy some birthday clothes.
"Then, all of a sudden, my stuff was gone and I didn't realize it until that night," Coombs told FOX 9 News.
Coombs filed a report with police but said she won't let the incident keep her from her mission.
"It will not deter me," she vowed.
In fact, she still goes to St. Paul each day to pass out vitamins, clothes and water.
"It's my calling," Coombs said.
Professionals who help the homeless say her enthusiasm is not misplaced.
"For the public to want to help those in dire need is the best trait we could have today," said Sgt. Paul Paulos.
According to a Wilder Research Homeless study, there are more than 170 homeless young people on the streets in Ramsey County who are no older than 22. There are also more than 700 homeless adults between the ages of 22 and 55, and more than 160 are 55 or older.
By the numbers, Coombs calling is definitely needed -- but professionals warn that the kindness of strangers can be exploited.
"Many of [the homeless] are estranged from family because they took advantage of family, so taking advantage of a stranger isn't a far leap," Rosemarie Reger-Rumsey, executive director of the Listening House, told FOX 9 News.
That's a lesson Coombs plans to carry with her from here on out.
"You have to make sure you have the right protection when you come down here," she said.
For those who would rather not volunteer with a non-profit, it's best to go with a group to give.