Have you ever been hungry, as you start to get irritated, light headed or having slurred speech?
While everyone is preparing for their new year’s eve outings, I woke up at six in the morning to go serve at a soup kitchen. It wasn’t anything extraordinary for me as I usually serve food to the homeless at this food bank; it was my way to let my buddies who come to eat there every Sunday know that I care and respect them.
I can’t bear to see someone go hungry. It hurts me. And I certainly can’t understand that in this rich country, most of our hungry homeless are veterans. People think that being homeless is a choice because most homeless have a history of drug abuse or mental illness, but the reality is that a great percentage of them are veterans. They fought for this country at one point to later have no guarantee of how they will survive post service. Most of them have PTSD or another disability and can’t work, few of them used drugs and the list goes on, but still, the future of our troops is highly uncertain post service.
I served as much as I can on some Sundays at St Xavier Church soup kitchen near Union square. It’s open to the public and well organized and on each of these Sundays I see perfectly capable individuals who have fallen into the trap of homelessness. They all want to feel human and have someone to talk to, most of them want to have a job and a roof but so far it’s the vicious circle of No roof no job for them. Of course there are organizations that are willing to help them, but the homeless population is growing so fast that without the government’s help, it’s quasi impossible to stop this pandemic. I am sure they had made a wrong decision at one point with their lives, but is it ok for a human being to go hungry because of poor life choices?
I stopped dating a guy because he threw in the garbage a sandwich he had just bought and didn’t like in front of a homeless guy who was begging him for it. He told him: if you really want it, just go get it in the garbage can, “lazy ass go get a job”. How was he was going to treat me if we had ever gotten serious? So disrespectful and degrading to someone in need. Hopefully all the hedge fund babies and successful wall street bachelors aren’t like him as he was one of them. The poor homeless man wasn’t asking for money, he was hungry and was begging for something that my obnoxious date had already bit into. How can you step on someone who is already down?
Around 10 PM one day I was strolling down the street near Trader Joe’s on Union square to find a line forming itself. I asked the people standing there what is was for as it was odd for a Monday night at 10PM. They told me they were waiting for the Market to close and the unsold food to be discarded so they could dumpster dive. In the line was a seventy year old grandma with two small children. It broke my heart. Their mother died; she was the sole breadwinner of the house now and couldn’t afford much with her pity pension, their food stamp allowance was a joke and her babysitting job wasn’t stable. They needed clothes and boots for winter so they could go to school. It was either she dumpster dived with them twice a week so they could have enough food on the table, or send them to school at risk of getting sick and freezing to death.
I try to make it there at least one Sunday a month. We serve between 1 to 2K each Sunday. It sounds amazing but the homeless population in New York city alone had maxed out to a whopping 59k. Let’s not mention the crime rate that this situation has brought alone. The shelters are full and the soup kitchen can’t accommodate everyone. Not enough donations and not enough volunteers.
We are all festive, and worried, thinking about what we are going to wear, and where we are going in this sub zero temperatures, but have we really taken the time to think about or done something for our less fortunate lately? The Government has got to do something about this situation.
My pitiful Sundays aren’t enough as I wish I could do more. Subsequently, this New Year’s I wanted to do something special for them. I wanted to be present as so many volunteers had canceled. Although I will be certainly celebrating the end of an amazing and instructive year for me later on at some party like most, I couldn’t help but go see them on the last day of 2017. I guess it is my way to tell them that I care.
Everyone wages their own war against something: homelessness, water waste, injustice, illness and the list goes on; mine is hunger. I didn’t write this piece to get praises or to brag about my good deed. Most of us do so in silence which is the way it is supposed to be really; instead I wrote this piece to raise awareness about the issue. No one should go hungry, neither during the holidays nor ever and specially not in this cold. If you ever have left over food or something else, please, it takes nothing to find a homeless person near that fancy restaurant to give it to.
By Marie Caroline