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Buffalo pastor spending week with the homeless

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

A local pastor has started his annual week with the homeless and poor.Pastor Eric Johns of the Buffalo Dream Center has spent one week with the homeless for the last 14 years, sleeping outside or in shelters and eating in soup kitchens. He says the goal is to make people aware of the problems of the homeless and those who can't afford a meal.

The pastor says he was once in a soup kitchen and ran into a family from his church who couldn't get by without a meal in a shelter. Johns says many of the people he sees one year end up improving their lot in life the following year.

"I was just in a soup kitchen and I shook hands with someone who was living under the bridge with me last year and said, 'Hey pastor I want to let you know I got an apartment, got a place to live,' and I joked around with him that I'd be staying in his old place this week. So, there are some people that I see every year and there ares others where it's really encouraging to see them get a place to live and get on their feet and make something better of their life," Johns said.

Johns says there have been some changes in the homeless population, with many veterans now on the street along with people with mental health issues who won't go into shelters.

Johns says some of this is part of the Boxes of Love program, which will feed 3,000 families during the holidays and provide 5,000 Christmas presents for kids who ordinarily wouldn't get one.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.