Salvation Army extends reach to the helpless beyond cold weather - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Salvation Army extends reach to the helpless beyond cold weather shelters

Laura Bianco packs items to distribute in the Salvation Army's Canteen. (Photo source: WLOX) Laura Bianco packs items to distribute in the Salvation Army's Canteen. (Photo source: WLOX)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

The Salvation Army's center in Gulfport reached its limit for capacity Wednesday night, and by Thursday morning, the hot coffee and breakfast was a welcomed sight.

Workers and volunteers knew others might need help, so the mobile kitchen unit, also called the canteen, was sent on a mission to homeless camps in Gulfport and Biloxi, ready to feed and clothe anyone in need.

The surprising part was volunteers didn't find anyone to help.

“We hope that they weren't in the camps,” said Laura Bianco, Public Relations Director with the Salvation Army. “We know the signs and signals if they are in the camps, but we're hoping that they went to a shelter or went to a friend's house.”

Bianco said the homeless can be fiercely independent, so the mission has to do more than meeting physical needs.

“It's not just talking to them about talking and getting them to shelter or getting them warm things, but it's also ministering to them. Making sure they're OK. Feeding their soul with good news, with the word of Christ,” said Bianco.

Jerry Casey was homeless and addicted to drugs, but five years ago, he was accepted into the Salvation Army's rehabilitation program. Now, he's working with the organization and helps with the canteen on nights like these.

When he visits homeless camps, he sees the problem from the other side.

“It's gratitude that I'm not doing that. I'm not living like that, and they don't have to live like that. Because when you are in that state of mind and in that situation, there's a hopelessness that comes over you, and you say why. Why would I even want to be? There's no reason, but the Salvation Army will show you a reason,” said Casey.

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