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'Anyone who's hungry or homeless' welcomed to City Rescue Mission Christmas meal

The meal starts at 11:30 a.m. on Christmas at the New Life Inn Campus at 234 W. State Street in downtown Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — City Rescue Mission is hosting a Christmas dinner Tuesday for anyone who needs a meal. The executive director says they're expecting more people this year than last year.

The meal starts at 11:30 a.m. at the New Life Inn Campus at 234 W. State Street in downtown Jacksonville. Executive Director Paul Stasi says about 300 people are expected to come. More than 100 volunteers will distribute Shoeboxes of Love with products like toiletries.

The Florida Council on Homelessness 2022 annual report states more than one thousand people are homeless in Duval County. It reports more than 2400 students are homeless in Duval County. 

The number from their point in time count is slightly lower this year. The report states resources for affordable housing must be prioritized.

It's coming up on two years since dozens of people moved into tents on Jefferson Street before the city closed that area off. Stasi says City Rescue Mission ran the temporary shelter and the 200 people who came in all left with a place to go. Since then he says the community is doing the best they can, but their shelter is full.

"Just because of what's been happening with the economy and the rents and rents going up so much especially this year," Stasi said. "It's making it more and more difficult for people to really stay in their homes."

At the last community meal, Stasi says their resources were able to reach more people.

"I'll never forget, I was talking with a gentleman who's been camped out here on Julia Street," Stasi said. "He had just gotten out of prison and he just didn't know what to do or where to go even though we go out and talk to them on a regular basis, he didn't fully get what we could do to help him and and all he really needed is his ID. I was encouraging him to come on in and we can help him because you know, we provide 24-hour shelter care with intensive case management and we want to help people that are experiencing homelessness that if they come in, we can help them move on to be successful and sustainable."

Their dining room becomes extra room for their cold weather shelter on nights below 40 degrees, where they can help 100 more people.

The mission is looking for donations, specifically winter clothing and coats. Learn more about donating here.

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