Tent City Project draws hundreds as the homeless collect the essentials for the winter months

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - For many of us, planning a camping trip means time to rest and relax, to get away from it all. But, for some in our community, setting up camp means you have no where else to go and nearly nothing else to protect you from the cold. So, the Tent City Project brought the essentials to the hundreds of people living on the streets of the Rocket City.

"You realize that most people don't have have what you have and most people think well everyone has what I have, it's not true, people are going through such a hard time," Volunteer Mikaley Maupin said.

Men and women like Jim DeFelice don't claim a home address, rather a spot to pitch a tent.

"I've got an Army sleeping bag, a 30 degrees below zero sleeping bag," DeFelice said.

When you're "home" contains a mattress and a hot plate, your Christmas list reads something like this.

"Another tent, some propane, I'm down to like one bottle of propane," DeFelice explained.

"He says that he has all this stuff but really, he has his bed, himself and his heart," Volunteer Madelynn Olson said.

DeFelice said he survives the winter weather with the clothes on his back and love from above.

"That's how you do it," DeFelice said. "With the Grace of God you get through it each day."

DeFelice said help also comes in the form a lifesaving lady, Founder Amy Mansell, and the Tent City Project.

"It's hard, I mean just imagine camping, you camp in the spring and the fall and in the winters it gets below freezing," Mansell said.  "People die out here; they need our help."

Through the annual effort, Mansell raises an army to battle the bitter cold. Even her smallest soldiers know how important it is to meet these people where they're at.

"You see them, and it's pretty cold, and you see them shivering and they're just like in hoodies and we're just bundled up and they're not," Volunteer Sydney Sweet said.

"They're out here in the woods by themselves and they have nothing, literally," Olson added


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