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Free pizza breaks up routine for local homeless
The Little Caesar’s Love Kitchen serves free pizza to the homeless at The Way shelter in Gainesville on Friday.

The homeless have their routines, too.

And for many who come to The Way, a day center in Gainesville serving warm breakfast and lunch to those living on the streets, in cars and local shelters, it’s nice to have their daily habits and expectations shaken up.

That was precisely the case when the Little Caesar’s Love Kitchen, a big-rig loaded with a portable kitchen, showed up at this mission last Friday to serve 85 homeless plus staff with 55 pizzas.

On Saturday, the oven-on-wheels stopped at the Good News at Noon homeless shelter just a few miles away to serve dozens more.

The Love Kitchen makes stops seven days a week across the country feeding homeless and victims of natural disasters by partnering with local food pantries and homeless missions to bring warm food and good cheer in the fight against hunger.

It was there when Hurricane Sandy struck the eastern seaboard in 2012, when tornadoes ripped through Alabama in 2011, when Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast in 2005 and even after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

Some 6 million slices have been served to nearly 3 million individuals since 1985.

Local franchise owners donate all food and labor costs, while 50,000 employees have volunteered their time.

Advocates said the Love Kitchen’s arrival had perfect timing and was consistent with a weeklong effort to break up routines that began with a homeless count and survey.

Conducted every two years, information collected in the survey of homeless and transient individuals, including housing status, income levels and other factors that affect living conditions, helps determine federal and state funding levels for local assistance programs.

It also presented an opportunity to provide outreach and resources.

For example, two women were able to move into a shelter after connecting with advocates conducting the surveys, and other homeless were identified as candidates for permanent housing.

Additionally, three individuals who have recently experienced homelessness secured new jobs last week.

The Longstreet Cafe in Gainesville and Chick-fil-A donated gift cards to the homeless as part of the survey, and the United Way of Hall County distributed gift cards purchased for use at CVS pharmacies.