Dear PoPville – Helping the Homeless

Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

Dear PoPville,

Instead of worrying about my own rat race for one day, id like to give back.

One way i thought of was, feeding the homeless.

I wanted to make a bunch of food, and have kind of like an assembly line, and just hand out a warm meal, somewhere in DC.. i was thinking Mcpherson square…
BUT, im pretty sure its not that simple is it?

Can I just pull up with some helpers, set up shop, and hand out food to the homeless without and kind of ramifications?

Any help would be appreciated.

You may also want to consider volunteering at Bread for the City. You can also feed the needy on Saturday mornings.

15 Comment

  • There’s a group that goes to DuPont Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. and does just that. The organizer is always looking for people to bring food for around 80 people. They go to McPherson after to give out the rest. I’d show up and introduce yourself!

  • Bread for the City is awesome and their website explains how to volunteer, but they don’t actually serve prepared meals to the homeless.

    Miriam’s Kitchen, SOME, CCNV are some other places you might want to look into helping serve meals. Plus Food and Friends and the DC Central Kitchen, which prepare meals that are then delivered elsewhere.

  • I love that you are interested in serving the homeless. I wish that more people thought like you. As a homeless services provider working in DC for the last 10 years I beg that you take this idea and donate your time and resources to an agency that does this 365 days a year.

    Groups that pull up to parks throughout the city often do not realize that there are about 3-5 other groups that do the same thing throughout the day, especially during the holidays and weekends.

    This is not helpful to people who are on the streets or in shelter or simply in need of a subsidized meal. Not only our your resources being duplicated and often wasted, by moving food away from services, it de-incentives people in need from connecting to case management services that are set up to provide referrals, medical and mental health treatment and connection to jobs and housing.

    I reiterate… THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for your dedication and passion, but looking at organizations like SOME, Miriam’s Kitchen, DC Central Kitchen’s First Helping program, N Street Village, Rachel’s Place and Martha’s Table will allow you to make a bigger impact. Even more helpful to these agencies and the clients receiving the services is proposing help after the holidays, in January and February when the holiday spirit has dissipated and volunteers are truly needed.

    Hope this helps everyone make an informed decision!

    Happy holidays!

    • +++a million.
      It’s awesome to want to help but these are very complicated difficult problems that folks have spent years trying to solve. Please give your awesome time and skills to established groups.

    • Thrive in Columbia Heights is a good place to help out as well.

    • I would only add that when you go solo, whether the meal is repeated or not, if gives “you” a chance to connect with people on the street and perhaps build a relationship with them that can then be benefical to that person and to you. Perhaps you can be the link to help that person get the help they need, for example? Follow your instincts and see where they go.

      • You can often still get involved in a face to face way with an organization by volunteering. You can volunteer regularly in a variety of ways that have an impact on people’s lives. Sorry, making a bunch of sandwiches and handing them out to passersby ONCE is not “connecting” with people in a meaningful way – doing this once to random strangers who are businesspeople would not be perceived as such, so I am not sure why it would be for homeless people.

        Giving out food is fine. People need food. And those handing it out get to pat themselves on the back. It is also worthwhile to help by making a long term commitment to help people avoid homelessness in the first place through tutoring or education programs for kids or a whole bunch of other ways that are less dramatic but have a longer term impact. Those usually require much more from the givers.

        • I never give out sandwiches once. I go back again and again on my own and build a relationship. The point is, you do not “need” a bureacracy to do this. If you are motivated to do it on your own, give it a shot. You can volunteer, and/or you can do it on your own. I support this person’s desire to try it on their own. In addition to food, you can also get people shleter on your own (get them a hotel room for example). The bureacratization of society can make us forget that we “can” do these things on our own. And doing it on your own is, in my experience, a different kind of feeling (though I also volunteer so I would, in the end, suggest doing both).

  • The Least of These
    Check them out on Facebook. They hand out food to homeless at the Navy Memorial every Thursday. They are also helping many of them get the ID cards, etc. they need to become employed again.

  • St. Paul’s on K Street has what they call “Grate Patrol” on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I went out with them for a few months and it was very rewarding. They know a lot of the homeless they serve and have actual relationships with some of them. I met some very interesting people who, for one reason or another, live on the streets. One man I met was a vet who spoke 7 or 8 languages fluently. He read multiple papers daily and spent much of his time going from museum to museum. The ingeniousness of his sleeping quarters completely amazed me. Anyway…Check out St. Paul’s if you’d like.

  • Yes, the Catholic Workers do that every Thursday at McPherson Square. That’s one of their points is that we don’t need permission to do the works of mercy (feed the hungry, etc.) Just do it.
    Here is their website

  • Also, Saint Matthew’s Cathedral downtown has a Monday homeless program (where I volunteer). They serve food and would be happy to take you on as a regular food donor if you want to go that route (and/or you can just drop by and check it out).

  • Thank you all. Based on the responses, it seems like my time would be better spent at an organization that is already set up. (instead of pulling it off myself)

    Thanks for the info!

    • I love your enthusiasm, and I would encourage you to join us for breakfast Monday through Friday at Capitol Hill United Methodist Church. We do daily breakfast at 7:30 – we call it Our Daily Bread. You don’t need to be Christian or religious at all, just come join us – bring food if you like, but also feel free to come share a meal. Our unhoused friends who come regularly tell us the beauty of Our Daily Bread is they get not just food, but a daily routine that adds structure to their lives and a safe, quiet space to relax and let their guard down – something they never get to do living on the street.

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