Franciscan Bread for the Poor is best known for our Breadline. Since 1930, every morning, without fail, the Friars and our volunteers have provided nutritious, high-quality meals to members of our community. On a typical day, starting at 6:45 am, we feed between 350 and 450 people. Our clients receive enough food to get them through the day without hunger: normally two sandwiches, milk, juice, cake, and coffee. In November, as the streets grew colder, we have begun offering the option of instant oatmeal three times per week.
Less well known is our home delivery service, Franciscans Deliver. With the help of our selfless volunteers, each Friday and Saturday morning we deliver groceries for the week to nearly 150 households. These elderly, infirm, and homebound members of our community choose the groceries they want, and receive fresh, store-quality meat, poultry, milk, eggs and fresh produce. Poor and housebound people, like everyone else, deserve to choose the food they eat. This both ensures they get the right foods to meet their specific dietary needs, and enhances their dignity.
Franciscan Bread for the Poor also works with partner charities to get food to those who need it most. Current partners include The Dwelling Place, Create, Inc., and The Relief Bus. We also provide meeting space for LEFSA (Life Experience and Faith Sharing Associates, a project of the Sisters of Charity, New York), to support their outreach to homeless New Yorkers. In addition to providing wider access to needy, hungry New Yorkers, these agencies help our community by providing services we do not have the resources to offer our members, such as detox programs. We have already seen the positive impact this has on our clients. Partnerships such as these allow us to more effectively reach out to and serve those in need in our community, and help others – clients and partners – to learn of our services. This improved set of services, and increased presence in the community, exemplify our Franciscan Charism and our Franciscan way of life.
The Dwelling Place, founded in 1977 by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, is the oldest women’s shelter in New York City. The Dwelling Place provides a safe, warm shelter for as many as fifteen women at a time. Residents are offered the opportunity to participate in continuing education and vocational training, preparing them to enter the workforce better equipped to thrive as independent women. Franciscan Bread for the Poor provides groceries for residents, in a project similar in structure to Franciscans Deliver. Every week the staff of The Dwelling Place plans a menu to feed their residents that week. Then, they place their order, and our generous volunteers deliver that week’s food supplies. Sheltered and well fed, the residents of The Dwelling Place can focus on improving their skills, their careers, and their lives.
Create, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization located in Harlem started by Fr. Ben Taylor, OFM, in 1970. Many of its clients are homeless and suffer from chemical dependency. Every week, Franciscan Bread for the Poor delivers groceries that feed 30 families who use the services of Create. They offer a caring and accepting environment that supports these individuals as they rebuild their lives. Support services, invaluable to our Breadline population, include a broad spectrum of medical and residential programs, serving basic, human needs that provide a springboard for healing to begin. Create provides chemical dependency treatment, permanent housing and support services of single parent women, medical evaluations, counseling services, peer support groups, 12 step programs, vocational counseling, job preparation and placement, and day services for the elderly.
The Relief Bus has customized two former school buses customized into mobile resource centers to travel around the city, providing food, shelter, job training, medical care, detox and faith-based drug/alcohol rehabilitation to the poor and homeless. The Relief Bus’ resources and connections to services around the city are greatly benefiting our guests on the Breadline. Franciscan Bread for the Poor contributes to the Relief Bus extra bags of food, as well as fresh fruit, juices and milk. This addresses a major concern: our population can vary greatly from one day to the next, and having a reliable destination for excess Breadline sandwiches ensures that we do not waste food. We also supply gathering space for The Relief Bus volunteers, as they prepare to carry out their weekly Thursday night outreach in Penn Station.
Finally, Franciscan Bread for the Poor provides coffee and a welcoming space in San Damiano Hall, for LEFSA meetings every second Saturday. This reliable space lets LEFSA more effectively reach out to and support homeless New Yorkers as they engage in matters of faith, build their self-esteem, and learn what they need to know, in order to make positive, permanent changes in their lives.
All these agencies share with Franciscan Bread for the Poor a philosophy of helping all people in need, with a spirit of dedicated service, and without judgment. Personally, I have been deeply impressed by the caliber of the volunteer teams I have encountered in partnering with these agencies, and can only hope to continue to deepen our involvement with them.