Crowd gathers every morning at this Daytona Beach outreach center for services and a sermon

Pastor Ray Kelley was once homeless on North Street. Now he preaches there.

The homeless in Daytona Beach know that they can find services on North Street, where several nonprofits operate within a one-block area.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The homeless in Daytona Beach know that they can find services on North Street, where several nonprofits operate within a one-block area.

Many who visit the Daytona Outreach Center come for warm showers and fresh clean clothes. Founder and pastor Ray Kelley is there to offer something else as well.

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Every morning, Kelley starts the day with a motivational speech and sermon. The ritual has become so popular that former clients, who now have homes, still show up to hear his message.

“Every morning I have people waiting,” Kelley said. “I try to bring a word of hope to them.”

Kelley preaches from what he calls the porch. It resembles a loading dock with a wood railing and bench seating. Every morning a crowd gathers to hear his booming voice.

“I don’t like to call them homeless. I like to call them people in transition,” Kelley said with a sympathetic voice.

Kelley understands from personal experience.

“I know them. I was one of them,” Kelley explained, looking out at the crowded street he once walked with his wife and two children.

“I was homeless. I was a drug addict,” Kelley said.

He was addicted to methamphetamine.

“We’re here because we were in their shoes and we’re here because we believe we have help for them that will get them out of here,” he said.

Kelley said it was faith that finally helped him kick his addiction and get off the street.

“Once I had a relationship with God, I didn’t desire to get high anymore,” he said.

Now he and his family hope to share that faith with others. His sermons are a combination of personal analogies and scripture.

“If we can get one person changed at a time before you know it, they’ll all be changed,” the pastor said.

Kelley feels his program is working. He’s proud to say more than 200 people have found housing since the outreach opened in January.

One of those people is Angel Marra, who takes a bus every day just to hear Kelley preach.

“This man right here has been there for me,” Marra said, her arm around Kelley. “Hearing him makes me stronger.”

The Daytona Outreach Center provides nearly 40 showers a day as well as clean clothes. Outreach volunteers help direct visitors to other services in the area and a medical staff is there to provide physicals and blood work.

Daytona Outreach Center also offers a 12-step program.

“They desire to get out of the situation they’re in but it’s almost like a catch 22 because you’re stuck on the street, you know you have to do this to bear with it,” Kelley said.

He knows firsthand how difficult it can be.

Kelley was nominated for the News 6 Getting Results Award by volunteer Joann Geddings.

“Ray is like that older brother that makes you laugh, makes you feel good. It doesn’t matter how down or depressed you are, he’s going to tell you something good that God has in store for you. It makes you pick yourself up and go on another day,” Geddings said. “I just wanted everyone to know what great things happens here.”

Kelley said that while there are a number of service providers for homeless in the area, he’s advocating for a woman’s shelter, which he says is desperately needed.

“A lot of these guys around here knew me when I was on the street.” Kelley said, confident he can make a difference on North Street.

“If you’re looking to get away from the drugs and the alcohol and the anger,” Kelley said after wrapping up the day’s sermon on the porch. “This is where you come.”

Daytona Outreach Center is in need of volunteers and donations to keep the nonprofit operating. You can find more information on their website.

About the Author:

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.