GCCM serves hundreds at annual homeless outreach event - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

GCCM serves hundreds at annual homeless outreach event

More than 100 were served at the third annual event. (Photo source: Brittany Scott) More than 100 were served at the third annual event. (Photo source: Brittany Scott)
Members of the  Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Upsilon Chi Omega Chapter from Gulfport, along with their Pink Pearls Youth Service Group. (Photo source: Upsilon Chi Omega) Members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Upsilon Chi Omega Chapter from Gulfport, along with their Pink Pearls Youth Service Group. (Photo source: Upsilon Chi Omega)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Homelessness can strike anyone at any given time; regardless of age or gender.

That's why on Friday, various businesses and groups throughout the coast joined Operation Homeless Hope to host the third annual 'Camping for Hope'. 

Organized by the Gulf Coast Community Ministry, the overnight event in downtown Gulfport not only provided essential items, but supporters also spent Friday night outside with the homeless community.

"Many are living on the streets with no tent or sleeping bag. They sleep in the woods or in the alley behind a building. Some have family in town, but living with them is not an option for whatever reason," GCCM board member James Edward Bates noted in a Facebook post. "Some openly acknowledge mental health issues....These are men and women fighting to survive, minute by minute, day after day."

In 2014 the event provided coats to 130 men and women, though that number dropped in 2015. With an estimated homeless population of 500 in Harrison County, the ministry's target market, outreach efforts were not in vain. 

"Our primary goal for this is to do our best to prepare homeless men and women for winter months," added Bates. "I'm guessing we saw around 110, probably because the weather hasn't gotten cold."

Following the Friday night camp out, the homeless community lined up Saturday morning to receive breakfast, warm coats and supplies such as sleeping bags and hygiene products. 

Various businesses across Mississippi pitched in to donate items including socks, portable toilets, food and care bags. To ensure that every person in need had a ride to the event, Gulf coast Business Supply sponsored transportation.

At least 90 volunteers donated more than the necessary material items — they gave their time. 

"Alpha Kappa Alpha is committed to providing service to all mankind. We have several service targets we focus on," said Kim Fisher of the Upsilon Chi Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. "One of those targets is our Seasonal Wraps program where Sorority members, members of the Pink Pearls, and our Ivy League collected scarfs, gloves, socks, hats, and blankets to donate. We were able to add our donations to those collected by the other organizations and help with distribution."

On Facebook, Brittany Scott noted, "It was wonderful and humbling to be able to serve today. God went above and beyond in touching not only those in need of material things but in touching the hearts of all of us at Camping for Hope. I am so blessed to have been apart of it and to have met so many great people."

Though Camping for Hope is only a two day event, GCCM is a year-round effort. 

"Throughout the year we have a homeless clothing closet at outreach ministry, " noted Bates. "We accept outdoor clothing like hats, gloves, and jeans; things that can be worn outdoors."

In addition to donating items, GCCM also needs volunteers on Tuesday and Thursdays from 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. for the food pantry and clothes closet. For more information on how to get involved, visit www.gulfcoastministry.net.

Click here to view photos from the event.

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