It was an amazing sight to see so many smiles from homeless residents on Christmas Day! Hundreds of men and women came from every side of Woodruff Park in Downtown, Atlanta to receive gifts prepared by various community organizations and families. One family, dressed as Santa's Elves, gave out gift bags filled with socks and undergarments. Another young man, with the help of his father and best friend, distributed hygiene kits. The hygiene kits, consisting of a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, shampoo and lotion, were a big hit among the residents in need. Other residents woke up to the smell of eggs and bacon being cooked on a grill that was set up at the east end of the park. It was a welcome surprise for those who are struggling with homelessness and food insufficiencyThe highlight of the day was the mutual aid provided by The Atlanta Justice Alliance. On any given Saturday, from 11am-2pm, the group can be seen providing hot lunch, snacks, coffee and water to the residents who call Woodruff Park "home." Since Christmas fell on a Saturday this year, they wanted to make the mutual aid for that day extra special. With help from their regular volunteers and some new recruits, they did just that. In addition to a catered meal, The Atlanta Justice Alliance also provided some of the hottest commodities amongst homeless residents: tents and sleeping bags. Living without a permanent home is an arduous journey, often made worse by lack of temporary accommodations. Because of the lack of availability of shelter programs, the streets are flooded with residents sleeping outdoors. Tents give our homeless residents the smallest modicum of privacy and make it possible for them to remain mobile with their "shelter," while providing the simplest covering with which to battle the elements.
Although this was an unseasonably warm Christmas, temperatures during the winter do reach below freezing; and many are without proper outerwear to keep warm. Knowing that winter is upon us (despite current temperatures), the Atlanta Justice Alliance also provided a wide selection of coats, sweaters, sweatshirts and other clothing items. And their generosity didn't stop there! As an added bonus, a plethora of reading books were available, along with socks, handwarmers and backpacks.
"I love what everyone is doing. Not just on Christmas, but day in and day out. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this amazing community," said McKenzie Mercado, a regular mutual aid volunteer. She has been volunteering with the Atlanta Justice Alliance since last year, and continues to lend support to many of their initiatives. Jimmy Hill, a local community activist, also said. "It just does my heart good to see that so many people are being helped. I'm thankful to God for allowing me the opportunity to serve others."
The week following Thanksgiving marked one year that the Atlanta Justice Alliance has been providing mutual aid to our homeless comrades at Woodruff. They welcome help from anyone who is available to volunteer. Their regular time slot is 11am-2pm, at the gazebo. To find out more about the Atlanta Justice Alliance, follow their social media pages on Twitter (@AtlantaJustice) and Instagram (@atlantajusticealliance). Donations may be sent via Cashapp to $ATLMUTUALFUND.
Reported by Keyanna Jones