GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Nearly a dozen veterans gathered at Degage Ministries in Grand Rapids Friday to celebrate its 24th annual Veterans Day lunch.

“At Degage Ministries, we are all equal,” Thelma Ensink, executive director, said. “Those of us who are experiencing homelessness and those of us who are housed right now.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of veterans who experienced homelessness has decreased 11% over the past two years. A point-in-time study from January showed nearly 33,00 vets are sleeping on the streets.

Navy veteran Thomas Carpenter, who has used Degage Ministries services in the past, now calls the lunch and those who gathered Friday his church.

“It’s like no matter who you are or where you’re from, you can get some help,” he said. “Somebody is going to listen to you. If you’re dirty, you’re going to get clean. If you need to do laundry, you can do that.”

The luncheon also included a pinning ceremony, songs from the Grand Rapids Catholic Central Choir and a prayer that blessed the men and women who have served and will serve in the years to come.