People still were sleeping on the ground Saturday morning at a Phoenix shelter when a group of Grand Canyon University students began setting up for their Homeless Ministry event.
On this day, the students unloaded a rental truck full of clothing for a long line of men and women at the Central Arizona Shelter Services compound near the Arizona Capitol.
Besides the clothes, the GCU students gave away toothbrushes and toiletries, shampoo and socks. They painted fingernails, provided haircuts and washed the feet of scores of people living on the streets or in shelters.
GCU freshman Isaiah Wilson explained that foot washing is symbolic in Christianity. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper to teach a lesson of humility and about serving others.
Sixty GCU students participated in the ministry inside the chaotic CASS compound, where people huddled with their belongings, lounged at picnic tables and asked about what the young visitors were offering.
Outside the shelter at Madison Street and 12th Avenue there is plenty of despair to go around. People gathered on littered streets to get food and clothing handed out by other charitable groups from vans and SUVs. One man sat on the street in the shade of a gleaming, black Cadillac Escalade eating his breakfast from a clamshell Styrofoam box.
Phoenix Fire Department paramedics tended to an elderly woman who needed medical assistance.
In the CASS compound, the line to get clothing from the GCU ministry grew to at least 30 deep for the men but much shorter for the women.