(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) While many people are waking up with a full belly from Thanksgiving dinner, Tracy Gillespie is waking up hungry and cold- on purpose.
“I just want to be out here so people can come down and say, ‘Hey, this guy is really out here. He’s lonely. He’s sad, lonely. He’s broken,” said Tracy Jay Gillespie, homeless advocate.
From November 26-29th, Gillespie is living like a homeless person. He will not eat, drink only water and coffee provided by passers by and sleep in a tent sandwiched between trailors at Halter Transportation Services, located on 624 S. Sixth St.
Gillespie is calling the event, “A lonely holiday, sleeping for socks.”
"I started to raise awareness for homelessness, to advocate about what it's like to be homeless. I want to try and remove the stereotype, the stigmas that society places on a homeless individual and create change within our community," said Gillespie.
Until last February, this Navy veteran was homeless for 30 years.
After getting the mental help and community support he needed, he wanted to make a difference for St. Joseph's homeless community. That's why he decided to step back inside the tent.
“It’s an emotional feeling being back out here. I just want to be that role model, that exhibit on what could happen with proper resources in place,” said Gillespie.
On top of fighting homeless stigmas, he's collecting monetary donations and warm clothing, specifically socks for the local homeless individuals.
All clothing items will be given to the Salvation Army to be dispersed amongst local agencies. The money will go towards a local social service agency working with the street homeless population. So far, Gillespie has raised $300.
Saturday, Gillespie's event will feature a series of speakers, carols and fireworks:
- At 3:30 p.m., Krista Kiger the Executive Director of Community Missions Corporation will lead in prayer.
-At 4:00 p.m., Christie Amos, Gillespie's warrior life coach, will tell her story and share how her perceptions of homeless have changed.
-At 4:30 p.m., a special guest will share her story and educate about homelessness in America.
-At 5:00 p.m., Tracy Gillespie will read a couple stories from his national blog.
-At 5:30 p.m., Dana Stuart, an extra on the set of Nashville, will sing Christmas carols.
-At 6:30 p.m., City of St. Joseph fireworks display from Coleman Hawkins park.