GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - With winter on the horizon, it remains a time when many homeless people are unprepared for the cold nights to come.
While most people spent the night warm and comfortable in their beds, a group of volunteers from various churches in Gulfport spent the night camping on the ground for a good cause.
Camping for Hope is an annual event that gives you a glimpse of what it's like to be homeless for a night. People spend a few hours living without luxuries and in the morning, they pass it along to those in need.
"It's a blessing to spend the night and in the morning, to give away everything you slept with...your tent, your mattress, your sleeping bag, what have you," said Kristen Borguezan, a volunteer.
Donation drives for the homeless happen all year long, but the winter months are typically when supplies are most needed.
"At the beginning of winter we want to try to replace their tents, because often those get destroyed by animals, or zippers break. They get weathered. Sleeping bags are the same. All it takes is one good rain to ruin everything someone has in a camp," said James Bates, the Camping for Hope coordinator.
Bates says there is a stigma and many stereotypes attached to the homeless community. He believes a non-judgmental approach is the best way to reach out to them.
"We take people case by case, just as we would with anybody in society--try to understand their needs, and try to meet those needs as best as we can and I think it's important for our community to do the same," added Bates.
Free food, haircuts, and a health clinic were provided to ensure that the some of those basic needs-- often taken for granted --were met.
This is the fifth year of Camping for Hope. If you would like to donate, you can bring items to Gulf Coast Ministries office in Gulfport every Tuesday and Thursday between 9 and 11 A.M.