Student volunteers resurrect soup kitchen

Friday, November 14, 2008

Since Oct. 28, the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John has served the roughly 200 people who have come to its soup kitchen.

The soup kitchen had closed in May when its head director, Tom Veronneau, decided to move on.

“No one wanted to take responsibility of organizing it,” said Megan Smith ’10, a coordinator for student group Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere. But for the next month or so, Veronneau has agreed to come back until new leadership can be found, Smith added.

Open every Tuesday from 4 to 5 p.m., the revived soup kitchen is a joint effort of HOPE, the Homeless People’s Action Committee, the Rhode Island School of Design and Providence College, among others.

For the past three Tuesdays, members of the Providence community have joined together and cooked meals for St. John’s soup kitchen, which is near Kennedy Plaza. Smith said that preparing all the food takes about three hours, and some of the food is donated from Brown’s dining halls. She added that the funding is provided by private donations, but it is not enough to keep the kitchen open seven days a week.

Although HOPE did have a hand in making the reopening of St. John’s soup kitchen a reality, the main driving force behind the program is HPAC, according to Smith. HPAC committee members are formerly or currently homeless individuals taking a stand to help the homeless.

Barbara Kalil, a member of HPAC, recounted how HPAC began, while eating a sloppy joe at St. John’s. One rainy Saturday, she said, she and other individuals from a homeless shelter decided to protest, motivated by their shared disappointment that there weren’t enough shelters to accommodate the rising number of homeless people. “We were a discontented group,” Kalil said.

HPAC has taken other initiatives in addition to the St. John’s soup kitchen to fight the rising rate of homelessness. Recently, the hypothermia shelter at the Mathewson Street Methodist Church has been open to keep the homeless out of the cold. HPAC has also been looking into buying foreclosed houses that each are being sold for $1 so that they can be transformed into places in which people can stay.

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