ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Volunteers from one Elmira church took to the streets ahead of winter to hand out hot meals and scarves to the homeless on the City’s southside.

Shabach Tabernacle of Praise set up next to the Dollar Tree in the former Tops Plaza in Elmira on October 8, handing out hot chicken soup, sandwiches, scarves, and water to the homeless in the windy, 45-degree day.

Robert Smith, pastor of Shabach Tabernacle, said the church is heavily focused on outreach and that homelessness is especially apparent in a small city like Elmira.

“Today is a special day for me because I always knew that the homeless were here,” Smith said, “but to actually be here, and be a part, and to know them. I know some of them, and it’s heartbreaking.”

Smith, who described his and his family’s own experience with homelessness, talked about the recent closure of the Second Place East homeless shelter, and said he hopes the City of Elmira and Chemung County will address the situation head-on.

“They’re well aware of this,” Smith said, adding his hope that other churches and “the City will answer and get a building or facility to help our homeless.” Smith stressed the importance of such handout events, saying the situation could be worse, and homelessness can affect anyone.

The kitchen coordinator at Shabach is looking into making these events more frequent, either weekly or bi-weekly, especially with winter on the way.