Christian group to put homeless people in Arlington Hilton for night

ARLINGTON -- A little over 2,000 years ago, there was no room at the inn for Mary and Joseph on the night Jesus was born.

That won't be the case on this Christmas Eve for about 35 recently and currently homeless people in Arlington.

Members of Mosaic, a Christian group that worships together and ministers to the homeless, are putting the people in the Arlington Hilton for the night, Lead Pastor Stephen Hammond said.

They'll feed them a dinner catered by Buck n' Loons. A candlelight celebration with carols, prayer and Scripture readings will follow.

"We'll have time to reflect on the birth of Christ and how that gives hope to all," Hammond said. "That's why the event is called Night of Hope."

In each room, the homeless people will find gifts, food baskets and, for the children, toys to make the holiday magical. A Christmas movie will top off the evening.

The Hilton is offering a huge discount on the rooms, he said. Buck n' Loons is providing the food at cost and may decide to donate it outright.

"I call the Hilton the 'Hotel with a Heart,'" Hammond said. "Both of these groups are equal partners with Mosaic. We couldn't do this without their partnership."

Mosaic members will stay on hand in case their guests need anything.

The next morning, breakfast will be served and the group will be able to enjoy a few hours of relaxation. When they depart, everybody will receive a box lunch.

Of the homeless people, about 25 have recently entered a government program to help them get back on their feet. Mosaic is providing GED classes, groceries and friendship.

An additional 10 or so people off the street are also expected to attend. They might include Sonny, a 59-year-old man who recently stopped by to chat with Hammond while filling his cup with water at the Starbucks on South Cooper Street near Arlington High School.

"I've been on these streets for 18 years," Sonny said with a proud smile. "Eighteen years!"

Mike Bradfield, a University of Texas at Arlington student who is a member of Mosaic, said the group's outreach to the urban poor is meant to improve the city as a whole. "If we can stabilize families, it will benefit everybody," he said.

Mosaic is a 5-year-old group of Christians that doesn't label itself a church for fear of turning potential members off, Hammond said.

"We all have our broken edges," he said. "We're a group of broken, fragmented people coming together to form something beautiful."

Patrick M. Walker,