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Volunteers feed the homeless in Tacoma ahead of tent ban

An army of volunteers went to People's Park in Tacoma on Thanksgiving to feed dozens of homeless people who are facing a looming tent ban.

TACOMA, Wash. — Dozens of volunteers in Tacoma handed out free meals to the homeless in People’s Park on Thanksgiving.

In recent months, the people living in tents in the park have become the faces of Tacoma’s homeless crisis. David Combs owns The T-shirt Men, a t-shirt printing shop next to the park, and organized the potluck named “Friendsgiving in the Park.”

“People from the community have come together to bring a nice, warm meal to the people who are impacted by homelessness,” Combs said. “These people are our neighbors.”

Some volunteers piled turkey, macaroni and cheese, and slices of pie onto paper plates. Others, like Tshlene Henreid, carried the plates to people in tents. Henreid handed a plate to a young woman living in one of the tents who went by the nickname “Arkansas.”

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“I haven’t always been this way,” explained Arkansas. “I was working two jobs.”

Arkansas confided that she feels judged living in the park.

“A lot of people when they come out here, they look down on the homeless and it hurts my feelings,” she said.

James Tucker, who has been homeless for four months, said he is currently living in a nearby church. He believes Friendsgiving in the Park will go a long way toward building understanding between the homeless and their neighbors.

“It’s beautiful,” said Tucker. “They’re talking. They’re asking, ‘Well what brung you here?’ And you’d be amazed at some of the stories.”

Combs said the event was especially important considering that the city is on the verge of implementing a ban on walled structures, including some tents, in the park.

“A lot of people here in the park feel that the clock is ticking for them,” Combs said.

Combs said he already has plans for another Friendsgiving in the Park next year in Tacoma.