By Eric Jayne
Homelessness is a tragic reality. It exists in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, and just about every city, suburb, and community throughout Minnesota. With rising rent, low apartment vacancy rates, foreclosures, and scarce housing resources, low-income families have faced extraordinary devastation. Perhaps even more devastating is that children and youth account for nearly half of homeless people in Minnesota (Wilder Research – May 2010).
In Ramsey County, the first point of contact for all homeless families is the Family Place which is a secular nonprofit in downtown St. Paul. They provide youth enrichment, employment counseling, housing advocacy, and they directly arrange shelter for homeless families.
On Saturday, September 15th fourteen atheists gathered at the Family Place to cook and serve dinner to about 40 guests, half of which were children. Minnesota Atheists member Jill Carlson was our kitchen leader and developed the menu that featured chili, garden salad, corn bread, fresh fruit salad, chocolate chip cookies, milk, and lemonade. A couple members brought fresh veggies from their own personal gardens to contribute to the salad.
After a couple of hours in the kitchen the 14 of us brought the food out to the dining area. We then had the unique experience of sitting with the families and dining with them family style. After dinner we cleaned up the dining area and kitchen. Then about half of our group followed up with a couple of tasty cocktails at the Bulldog Restaurant a couple blocks away in Lowertown St. Paul.
We will be doing more cooking and dining at the Family Place in the future so be sure to check out our Meetup site to RSVP.