By Maureen McNair
Our homeless outreach program began by complete accident. To make a long story short, for the last few weekends, we have been providing food to between 80 - 120 people experiencing homelessness. Here is how this part of our pantry story started.
Regular blog readers might recall that an anonymous opera singer donated over 2,000 pounds of food to us which he collected through a food drive. It turns out that a noticeable amount of that food was suitable to distribute to people who are experiencing homelessness.
Homeless people need food that is packaged differently from the food we usually give to families. We give families who come to our walk-through food distribution many pounds of fresh produce, food that needs to be cooked, refrigerated, frozen, and stored in a cabinet. People who live on the street need a small quantity of ready to eat food and disposable utensils.
Enter the opera singer, who collected an unusually high amount of canned food with pop top lids. A few of our pantry volunteers sorted and shelved all the canned food with pop top lids. Once they did that, it became quite clear it would take a year for us to distribute it to the few homeless people who come to our walk through distribution.
A few other pantry volunteers who come to us from the wider community had the bright idea that we simply do food delivery to people who live in clusters on the streets. So, that is what our pantry has been doing for the last few weeks. Three or four volunteers pack wagons with suitable food and bottles of water and walk along sidewalks with homeless encampments offering people food.
As with other times in the life of our pantry, events build on each other in unexpected ways.
As soon as we decided to give this type of food distribution a try, the pantry received an unexpected donation of several hundred ready to eat canned snacks of a chicken spread with crackers and a plastic utensil. These are so perfect for people who live on the streets! We started distributing the snack packs too.
The volunteers who go out to do this distribution are special people. Right now, they report, many of the people who live on the streets experience very difﬁcult personal challenges of mental illness and various addictions. The volunteers have developed ways to feel safe together and are happy to do this hardest work of all.
With your donations, we purchased to heavy duty collapsible wagons for this work. Thank you so much for your continued generosity.
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