Floyd Hamilton and his dog followed the railroad tracks, walking five miles to reach Tempe’s Daley Park on Thanksgiving Day.
The 47-year-old had heard by word of mouth that there would be a free meal and more importantly, the possibility of free sleeping bags.
As Hamilton smoked the last of his cigarette and sat crosslegged on the grass next to his dog, Sapphire, volunteers with the Without Walls Christian Center brought him soft drinks to wash down the plates of turkey, vegetables and pie that sat before him.
For four years, Without Walls has taken food to the park to serve the homeless, said Rex Stroke, associate pastor.
Starting at 11 a.m., men and women sat on the grass and at park tables as close to 100 volunteers of all ages brought them food and drink. Senior pastor Ken Dutton said about 250 homeless people were expected.
“We are what the name is,” Dutton said. “We get out into the world and touch people’s lives.”
Clint Frain, 41, once lived underneath a billboard on Mc-Clintock Drive.
The Tempe man decided three years ago to get on his bicycle and ride to the center, then located near Baseline Road and McClintock, where he entered a faith-based program that delivered him into ministry. He spends Sunday mornings serving breakfast to homeless men and women at the Salvation Army on the corner of University Drive and Myrtle Avenue.
“This is where my heart is now, homeless outreach,” Frain said.
Hamilton said he doesn’t consider himself homeless. He has a campsite with a tent and a fireplace.
Thanksgiving takes on a deeper meaning for men such as Frain and Hamilton who have been, or are homeless.
“I’m thankful for a whole new life,” Frain said.
“I’m just thankful to be alive,” Hamilton said.
On Dec. 10, the center will have a community outreach at Gilbert’s Mesquite High School, where two truckloads of presents will be handed out to needy families with children in the East Valley.