by Despina Kartson
"I was waiting all month for your hot chocolate," said one of our guests during last night's soup run. Our hot chocolate with whipped cream, delicious meals and warm conversations are offered to our guests on the streets of Manhattan every month and last night we were blessed to feed 125 individuals. The hungry and homeless were waiting for us and we couldn't unpack quickly enough. Some helped us unpack and set up our tables, others helped maintain order.
We met Rick who sticks together with a small group of other homeless men who look out for each other on the streets. He told us they respect the police because the police respect them, understanding their situation and allowing them to sleep overnight on the subway. Sal, who emigrated to the US from Morocco, calls the subway his home. Three years ago he lost everything and after two weeks staying in a shelter, decided to live on the streets where he feels safer. He also talked about the disrespectful way in which shelter staff treat the homeless, saying "they think we were always homeless and that we are bums but they have no idea". Listening to Sal and Rick, we are reminded that whether it is a police officer, shelter worker or any one of us, treating the homeless with dignity and respect is one of the simple things they crave.
Another man told us how he manages to have a cup of tea every day. Buying his own tea bags, he gets a cup of hot water from Starbucks and saves the cup. When people ask him why he spent money on Starbucks, he is proud to explain his frugal approach to enjoying his simple pleasure - a cup of hot tea.
Robert has become one of our "regulars" over the last year. We have mixed feelings about seeing some of the same guests every month - we are happy to feed them one more time but we are concerned about their chronic homelessness and their mental and physical health. Robert is not in good shape at all. He has open wounds, won't allow us to give him a shirt and walks the streets wearing tattered and torn pants and remnants of a shirt. But he did let Fr. Patrick buy him a foldable wagon for his few possessions after he complained about his plastic bags falling apart. With all of his issues, Robert seeks us out every month and talks with Fr. Patrick and others. We are making small connections - he needs our prayers.
Thank you to all who are a part of our monthly outreach to the homeless including Manny, Zachary and Kelly for preparing the food, our anonymous sponsor of last night's soup run, and the many volunteers and supporters from the Philoptochos and Holy Trinity community. We are in need of warm clothing - sweat shirts, jackets, pants and socks. Please donate what you can of your time, talent and treasures. Join us on November 30th.