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Homeless man walks 20 blocks for Christmas dinner



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SALT LAKE CITY — It's been said you don't really know what a man is going through until you walk a mile in his shoes.

However, chances are you will never want to experience what Derek Mullins has.

He wishes it was just a mile.

"It can be very tough," said Mullins, sitting in a chair in an empty room after dinner. "I've got scars from where they've tried to stab me and steal my stuff."

Mullins is homeless.

He's been that way for two years now, living in an old trailer with no heat near the Jordan River — a place even Santa might not be able to find.

"I don't have the money to do it now, and I'm still struggling," Mullins said. "My wife and I, we're both still struggling, but we're hoping the doors will open up this year."

Yes, there is always hope, and it's in places like this empty room where Mullins, and others, find hope.

Early Wednesday, the small gymnasium at The Christian Life Center off Redwood Road in Salt Lake City was packed full of people.

The Salt Lake City Mission held its annual Christmas dinner for people who might not have anywhere else to go.

"We just wanted to let people know that there are people out there who care for them," said Brad Jaques, a spokesperson for the Salt Lake City Mission.

Volunteers started cooking Christmas Eve — ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes — for people just happy to have something at the end of their fork.

"We want them to come and get a full stomach, get some clothes, get some hope and just some encouragement during a tough time of the year," Jaques said. "We're basically just one big happy family. We want to let people know that they're loved, they're cared about and they have a place to come on Christmas day."

The mission also teamed up with Lewis Brothers Coach, to provide buses for people to get to the dinner.

The buses picked up people at homeless shelters and at parks where those who are homeless frequently visit.

"Right now, the Salt Lake City Mission, it would be the difference between eating and starving," said Mullins, who said he walked 20 blocks to pick up a meal for himself and his wife.

He admits the mission might also be the hope that, maybe next year, Christmas dinner will be in his own home.

"Homelessness: it's not a permanent residence. You can get out of it," Mullins said. "You have to show people you're not just here for a handout. You want a hand up."

The Salt Lake City Mission is always looking for volunteers.

It provides meals to the homeless every single day, not just on Christmas.

If you would like to volunteer, you can call 801-355-6310 or visit the mission's website.

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Alex Cabrero

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