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City Rescue Mission Brings Holiday Cheer To Jacksonville's Homeless

Ryan Benk

As many people are preparing to travel home for the holidays, some Jacksonville residents still don’t have homes.

One advocacy group is helping ensure the city’s homeless aren't forgotten on Christmas.

City Rescue Mission volunteer coordinator Sharron Warren was opening the door to a large truck Wednesday morning. Inside, piled to the ceiling were blankets and shoe boxes filled with toiletries. The Christian mission had been collecting them for weeks, and it gave them out to throngs of homeless people at its annual Christmas celebration.

“We have gifts for children under the age of 10 to make sure they get something,” Warren says. “We’ll feed everybody a regular Christmas dinner, and we’re so very fortunate to have such an awesome local community.”

Around 200 volunteers worked to feed and give presents to close to 1,000 people who call the shelter home this week. Warren says it’s important the city’s homeless know someone cares about them around the holidays.

“Inviting them in, let them hang out, invite them to sit down under the tent, and hopefully that’ll encourage them to stay and most of them do stay,” she said. “Everybody wants to hear that inspirational message that speaks to their heart, especially at Christmas.”

She says the aim is to give hope to those struggling with chronic homelessness and addiction. And maybe it’s the start of turning things around. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.