Region 8 Church Opens Doors to Hungry, Homeless - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Jonesboro -- Heather Flanigan Reports

Region 8 Church Opens Doors to Hungry, Homeless

July 9, 2004 -- Posted at 5:13 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO -- The national alliance to end homelessness estimates that on any given night, nearly three-quarters of a million people have no place that they can call home.  Men, women and children often go hungry while on the streets, but it's not just a big city problem... there are homeless right here in Region 8.

The church bell rings and they come.

"We're kind of in denial about it. There are homeless and there are people who are hungry in this town," said Reverend Larry Hunt.

The Fisher Street United Methodist Church opens its doors every day during the summer for a free lunch.

Church volunteer Barbara Anderson said, "There very defiantly is a need. We've seen it grow from 30 to 80 to sometime 100."

Volunteers work to serve the hungry and sometimes, the homeless.

"To me there is no feeling like this. It's a feeling of accomplishment, it's a feeling of challenge, a feeling of complete fulfillment," said volunteer Joyce Hall.

The program started four years ago as a way to feed hungry children during the summer, but due to the growing response, Reverend Larry Hunt says they may have to continue this program year round.

"There's a real need, and we're not sure how we're going to meet that need. We're looking at it now. We've gone from a budget from about $4,000 dollars a year ago. This year it's going to cost us close to $12,000 dollars," said Hunt.

Money that's hard to come by in a small church community.

"We just more or less minister to them with our smiles and the food and our concern," said Anderson.

The only homeless shelter in Jonesboro closed a few years ago, leaving many with nowhere to go for help.

"The Salvation Army is able to take care of them for up to seven nights, but there's nothing else in this town to take care of people. Some of them are on the streets and we found one lady under a bridge. Some of them are in abandoned houses, some of them just move into bad situations, but it's the best that they can do a the time," said Hunt.

But one man and his church are trying to change that.

"We sit and cry with people more than we do anything. All summer we're giving a free meal at noon. We call and try to get jobs, we try to find housing if we can," said Hunt.

"I think the word has spread that we care. As our sign says outside, serving our neighbors, and that they need this, they need the fellowship with each other and with him. The church genuinely care about the neighborhood," said Anderson.

The Fisher Street United Methodist Church will be having a carnival with a voter registration drive on Saturday, July 10th.  They also sponsor a job training class for high school dropouts on Wednesday nights. For more information you can contact the church at 932-4814.


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