Stories from Main Street

Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

PATERSON, NJ (CBSNewYork) – A pastor from Wayne gave up all the comforts of home for a week in January to live among the homeless in Paterson.

“So we are now under the ramp to the highway,” said Pastor Tom Keinath. “we’re under one particular ramp but we’re looking at the beginning of the encampment.”

The pastor from Calvary Temple in Wayne led WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams me down a dingy alley in Paterson to the homeless squat where he chose to live for a week in the dead of winter.

“We’re about seven to 10 minutes drive from our church, but it is quite a different world here,” he said.

This world is mainly hidden under a ramp where Routes 80 and 19 converge.

“These guys have gotten into my heart. They’re my brothers now. We literally call ourselves the ‘Bridge Boys.’ They’ve welcomed me in. You know, what did I go through? Well, I wanted to identify. I wanted to experience what they experience, ” Keinath told Adams.

For seven nights, he slept outside. The mercury dipped to 10 degrees.

“Didn’t shower for the whole week. Sure, it was cold. I think I was running on a lot of adrenaline through that time. You somewhat get used to the cold,” said Keinath. “Three men, until we brought them sleeping bags, they were huddled under one blanket. We did build a fire every night. There’s a fire that’s burning. People now bring firewood every night.”

He counted 100 different people out there on the streets. Many share the same sad story of addiction.

“They’re shooting up heroin. You could see the physical struggle that’s there,” said Keinath.

Living in the cold without comforts, without shelter or a shower, deepened the pastor’s compassion.

“The long-term goal is to establish what I’m calling a dream center or a hope center, which is a residential program,” said Keinath.

In the meantime, congregants show up there weekly with food, sleeping bags, and a smile.

“Every Friday night, we have been holding Bible studies under this bridge or down at one of the parks,” he said. “We really do care and we’re going to do everything that we can, long-term, to help them.”

If you want to know more about Keinath’s efforts, contact Calvary Temple at 973-694-2938.