Local group opening hearts, homes to panhandlers

Some Bremerton men are willing to do what many aren’t — open up their homes and hearts to help panhandlers get on their feet.

Church members want to raise awareness, encourage people to help those in need.

Some Bremerton men are willing to do what many aren’t — open up their homes and hearts to help panhandlers get on their feet.

“I had six guys in my living room one Christmas,” said Fred Durant. “They’re colorful, they’re funny, they’re fun to be around.”

Durant, Tracey Williams and Tom Stewart, along with others, open their hearts to panhandlers and anyone who needs a helping hand. World Mission Bible Fellowship church members in Bremerton have been opening their hearts and homes to those in need for eight years and Durant, Williams and Stewart are a few who continue the mission.

“We want to make a difference in the community,” Williams said. “We’re trying to do what we can do to encourage people to do good things too.”

Durant, Williams and Stewart passed out flyers to passing motorists on the southbound State Route 3 exit at Kitsap Way July 28 to promote positive behavior and “put the hurt on panhandling.”

“We’re not there to beat up on the panhandlers, just to raise awareness,” Williams said. “We want to make people think.”

The men estimate they’ve tried to help more than 200 people over the years by letting them stay at their homes, buying them food, promoting sobriety and helping them find jobs.

“Programs are great, but they’re very impersonal. We need a mom, dad or grumpy uncle to say ‘hey dumbo, knock it off,’” Durant said. “A lot of what we’re trying to do is be their mom and dad.”

Stewart even donated a house to people in need. He and his wife moved to another home and allowed some people in need to move into their old house.

“We don’t help to get a gold star. We’re just trying to be that conduit of love to those around us,” Williams said. “It’s about people and loving people.”

Durant said it costs hundreds of dollars to house, feed and try to help the needy, but it’s a small price to pay to help someone get back on their feet.

“It costs to love,” he said. “It rips your heart out when they’re not doing right. We’re very happy for them to get off the streets and become good people.”

The group created a Web site, www.deluge-op.com, that will feature videos of them trying to help people and raise awareness. Williams said they hope the Web site will inspire others to help those in need and come up with their own ways to better the community.

“We need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and encourage good behavior. We need to all be an active part in the community,” Durant said. “Don’t give up — just keep loving. No one ever got in trouble just loving.”