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Pastor seeing greater need for homeless outreach after annual week on the streets

Ryan Zunner

An annual outreach to Buffalo’s homeless community is becoming even more meaningful this year. 

Pastor Eric Johns is known in the region as the minister who lives with the homeless. For the twenty-second year in a row with his Buffalo Dream Center ministry, Johns wrapped up a week in the shoes of the less fortunate. With the pandemic, Johns believes the community needs help more than ever.

“A lot of people asked me this year if I was gonna do it. But really, I think this year in all of the 22 years I’ve done this, I’ve seen the greatest need this year," the pastor said. "There’s a lot of people out on the street, and there’s a lot of families that need help in this month of December.” 

Johns said the virus has put a particular strain on area shelters.

“A lot of them were in shelters which have gone to social distancing, they’ve limited capacity," said Johns. "A lot of the soup kitchens you can’t go in and sit down, you just get something to go. Even finding a bathroom can be tough.” 

The Buffalo Dream Center’s services aren’t just seeing an uptick from the homeless population either.

“These are people who tell me they wouldn’t normally be in line for a food pantry, but if they’re out of work things are tough for a lot of people right now," he said. "So it’s not just the homeless, it’s really effected quite a lot of people in the community.” 

In his second full year of the journey with his dad, Johns' son Alex said it’s been an eye opening experience. 

“I’ve talked to a couple homeless guys, sad to say, they became homeless this year when the pandemic first started at the beginning of the year because they lost their jobs, and they couldn’t pay their rent," said the younger Johns. "So you learn, especially this year, I learned that this has effected everybody and anybody whose living their life.”

As in years past for Johns’ ministry, the yearly capstone campaign Boxes of Love will look to give out food and presents to more than 3,000 families this holiday season.

Ryan Zunner joined WBFO in the summer of 2018 as an intern, before working his way up to reporter the following summer.
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