When it comes homelessness, Margie Millar has more personal connections than most.
Three decades ago the Barrie woman found herself out on the streets with her three children.
"I know what it's like to struggle. I've been there. I've been where they've been. I've been in their shoes," said Millar.
Millar, who uses a wheelchair due to rheumatoid arthritis, runs a group called 'Friends Of The Homeless' on Facebook with 642 members, an initiative she started not only because of her own experience with being homeless.
She has an enduring heartache and the holiday season is especially tough.
"My brother went missing about 17 years ago on the streets of Trenton and I haven't heard from him since so it's kind of in memory of him. We have no idea where he is. He would be 75 now," Millar explained.
"My other brother has passed away and he always helped the homeless too. It's something I enjoy doing, helping people."
Friends of the Homeless is holding a free Christmas Dinner on Friday, Dec. 16 for the local homeless population and a few previous homeless people now living in rooming houses.
The Friends group organizes events six to ten times a year with a free meal and free clothing, including new underwear, socks, hygienic items and other donations.
Because it's not a registered charity, the group does not accept cash but encourages people to donate $5 gift cards.
Millar still needs 100 gift cards from Tim Hortons to hand out at the event.
"These allow our homeless friends to get out of the cold and have a bit to eat and drink. Being homeless does not make a person less valuable than any of us. They deserve a bit of Christmas Joy and it is our goal to give this to them."
In addition to gift cards, the group also needs ready to eat foods, warm socks, new underwear, back packs, hats, mitts, scarves, and gently used winter coats, shoes and boots.
Part of the charity is to give the homeless a chance to give to loved ones at Christmas.
"We want to collect anything that can be used as gifts for babies, children of all ages, teens, ladies and men. The homeless will then pick from these items to give to family and friends in their lives. This allows the homeless to do some Christmas shopping."
Millar grew up in poverty herself and urges people to get past the stigma and help others in need.
"You need one important thing to help others and that is compassion. You can make changes in people's lives if you have this," she said.
"People say they're drug addicts. They're alcoholics. But nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to become an alcoholic or a drug addict. It's pain. You can bet every one of those people has got their own pain. Whether it be they lost a marriage, a loved one, their jobs or their homes. You just have to listen to them. They've all got a story if you just take the time to listen to them."
The dinner will be held at the Community Wholeness Centre at 59 Maple Avenue from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 16.
People are encouraged to drop off donations inside the front door at 426 Sunnidale Rd. prior to the Christmas dinner.