The first few weeks of my training at FMS have been very eventful. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve met countless individuals that have opened up and shared stories that are both meaningful and full of great experiences. I have been a part of a community that is set on helping each other to be the best they can be, I have joined in a food run that serves meals to the homeless on the streets of DC, and have worked for a group at the Father McKenna Center every Wednesday morning, that exists to help the impoverished improve their situation.
The Father McKenna Center (FMC) has put me in direct contact with the marginalized here on the streets of DC and has helped me see more clearly the struggles the homeless have in attempting to better their lives. FMC daily puts together a food pantry for families that have difficulty meeting their food needs and can use the center to help subsidize the essentials and mitigate costs. People may come in and pick up enough items to get them through a few more days, however the pantry is only available to people with homes and is limited to a few visits a month.
For the homeless, they receive counseling in the parish every day, hopefully leading them to a more fruitful life. After counseling, usually around 40 people eat lunch where the other volunteers and I serve them. After the first round of food, we usually have an opportunity to join everyone for lunch and talk to them. After only three weeks, I haven’t personally created any life-lasting bonds, but every week I become slightly closer to the community.
The center tries to provide a security net for the people that have nowhere else to go, and for the most part do a very good job of providing services most would not have easy access to, such as, laundry machines and showers. The men spend profound amounts of time discussing their plight and the reasons why they find themselves homeless. Some have been or are still addicted to drugs, others have unresolved mental issues, and others simply have had cascading bad luck. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that everyone has a name and a story and they do not exist to simply be ignored.
I’ve also learned that the ability to cure the ails of the homeless is far from easy. They are not a cohesive unit with a specific identity or culture, but from all walks of life who bring specific and often unique problems to the table. I do not envy the people who work with the homeless, but it is unfortunate for the people who never seen the struggle these men and women go through to reach a sustained level of living.
Photo credit: Daniel D. Teoli Jr, Creative Commons