Retired firefighter, volunteers lend 'Helping Hand' to homeless in Camden

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Friday, April 7, 2023
Retired firefighter lends 'Helping Hand' to homeless in Camden
Tom Peculski, a retired firefighter, is leading a squadron of volunteers to extinguish the stigma surrounding homelessness.

CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A team of first responders, former military, teachers, and more spend their free time lending a helping hand to the homeless population in South Jersey.

The effort started as a spark by retired firefighter, Tom Peculski.

"I always used to basically do outreach after work," he said. "If I just saw people that needed something, I would stop and help."

Once people started noticing, Peculski started to form a formal group of volunteers. Now, they are a nonprofit known as Helping Hands Outreach Program.

They put boots on the ground in Camden and Gloucester Counties, making friends with the homeless population and providing physical, mental, and spiritual aid.

"We'll take them to doctor's appointments and job interviews. A lot of our folks work," said Peculski. "We were out here so much, police were asking us to help find missing people which we've been very successful with."

In less than four years, Peculski says they have helped 367 people find their way off the street.

"Many of them have been reunited with family," he said. "Many of them have gone on to get jobs and have gotten their own living accommodations."

As for those still without shelter, Helping Hands provides food, drinks, ponchos, flashlights, and conversations.

"They take the time and they come out and then not only do they provide different supplies for us, they come and sit down and talk," said Vincent White. "They spend time with us, find out what it is that we need."

Watch our video above to see Helping Hands in action and the perspectives of the individuals they serve.

Helping Hands Outreach Program is run by volunteers and donations. To learn more and how to help, visit their Facebook page.

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