SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Dozens came out to a downtown Spartanburg park Thursday night to help raise awareness for those facing homelessness.

There was free food, music, drinks, testimonies shared. Blankets, clothes and hygiene kits were also given out to anyone who may have needed them.

More than 40 names were read at the vigil, and those are just the names known to the community, not all the lives lost over the past few years.

“Living in abandoned houses, scared. I got strung out on drugs,” said Shelia Kirby.

Shelia Kirby experienced homelessness at a young age when she was thrown out of her house.

“I’m out in the street, it’s freezing cold or it’s 90-100 degrees outside,” she said.

She said she lived that way for years, until she went to jail for seven months. Which is where she said she found a way out, through God.

“I know a lot of you, you’ve been through things, you’re still going through things, but it’s a way out, it’s a way out through Jesus Christ,” said Kirby.

When she was released from jail she got a job. She says she prayed to never be on the streets again.

“I asked God to take drugs, cigarettes, alcohol. I asked God to take all of that from me,” said Kirby. “This been 30 years ago, God took it away.”

Her message to people listening is that there is a way out.

“I’m here to tell somebody tonight that it’s time to try Jesus, you done tried everything you could,” she said. “You think you doing it, but you ain’t doing nothing. You can’t do it on your own.”

People who came to the vigil were able to pack a bag full of things they will need, from clothes to blankets to hats and food.

“The overall point is that we want to help people, this is a generous community, but we want to do it in a way that, you know, we’re all tied together,” said Sarah Daniel with United Way. “We want to be doing it in the best way possible, not reinventing the wheel, but working with what we already have.”

Everyone trying to help raise awareness. United Way handed out brochures about their Challenge for Change program. It’s all about Spartanburg’s response to homelessness. It gives people resources and shows how they can get more involved.

For more on this program, go to