Saved by sister in house fire, man pays it forward with GoFundMe money

Image 1 of 7

You hear us talk a lot about GoFundMe pages in our stories here on FOX 2. 

Once they air, the FOX 2 viewer response is almost always amazing. We got a rare glimpse into how that GoFundMe money was used for one local family to rebuild their lives, and now pay it forward.

"I just introduce myself and I just talk to them like you know like anyone else," said Errol Purnell.

It's definitely not the norm to spend hours each week talking with the homeless on the streets.

"I have a purpose to be here and a purpose to do something," said Purnell. 

Armed with a stack of dollar bills we followed Errol on the downtown route he takes twice a week. Errol says more than anything these folks want someone to talk to. 

"Everyone has a story and everyone needs to tell it," he said.

"It helps me a lot, a hell of a lot," said one homeless man.

Purnell wasn't always like this.

"I was the type of person that would stereotype the homeless," he said.

It all changed when he was laying, nearly lifeless on the living room floor while his family's Pontiac home burned down around him.

"I could not get back up and move," he said. "I knew I was dead."

His older sister Charlene - who already made it out - burst back through the door, pulling Errol to safety.

Her heroism came at a price, leaving her in critical condition in the hospital for a month. She is still recovering at home. 

"That's my best friend, my hero," Purnell said. "I love my sister to the death."

When our story aired in November the family's GoFundMePage raised $10,000. Errol says they didn't need that much.

So, he took the leftover money and is paying it forward.  

One man Purnell stopped to help, Patrick Johnson, has been on the streets for three years.

"They turn their nose up at you and they just and don't give you the time of day to acknowledge that you're a person," Johnson said.

A few dollars for something to eat - and the human connection you can't put a price on. 

"There are good people out there and there are people who do care about me and us," Johnson said.

Errol says when the Go Fund Me money dries up - he will keep making the rounds with his own money. 

"I just try and be a blessing to someone," he said. "Because you never know when you're going to need the blessing."