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Feeding area's hungry is an important task (Olympia, WA)
by The Olympian Sunday November 03, 2002 at 12:04 AM

We remain convinced that elected officials, civic leaders and social service groups need to work together over the next few months to find a suitable replacement for the current Bread & Roses soup kitchen, regardless of who operates it.

Bread & Roses is in another tough spot. With their Cherry Street
lease in downtown Olympia set to expire in June 2003, the
faith-based group has no suitable option for replacing the soup
kitchen and drop-in center it operates there.

The chances that Bread & Roses could be left high and dry
increased last week when Olympia city officials refused to
endorse a $750,000 federal community development block grant to
help build a new soup kitchen, shelter and advocacy center for
the homeless. County commissioners followed suit Monday afternoon.

The grant request was not well-prepared and lacked specific details,
officials said.

While we can't fault the decisions of county commissioners or Olympia
council members, they cannot simply walk away from this problem.

Homelessness is a fact of life in South Sound. So is hunger.

A soup kitchen is a necessary component to meeting the needs of
the homeless, the working poor and those who are hungry.

This community cannot simply turn its back in hopes that the
problem will go away.

It won't.

It's in the best interest of all of us -- those who turn to the
soup kitchen in need, those who volunteer to prepare and serve
the meals and the community in general -- to have an effective
and efficient soup kitchen.

The question -- and it's one for more than just community leaders
-- is how to make that happen.

Just three months ago, the nonprofit volunteer group headed off
financial disaster through a flood of last-minute donations --
donations that helped pay back rent and overdue utility bills.

But the problem runs much deeper.

Caring for all in need

The Bread & Roses philosophy to feed all in need grows out of the
Catholic Worker Movement founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin
in 1933. Simply put, it's grounded in a belief in the God-given dignity
of every human being.

In other words, all humans deserve food and shelter, regardless
of their addictions or state of mind.

Some in our community would disagree. They would suggest that if
Bread & Roses closed its doors, the problems with public drunkenness,
panhandling, drug use and street violence in downtown Olympia would
go away, or at least be greatly reduced.

But is that realistic?

Another likely scenario is that the streets of Olympia could be
home to even more panhandling, burglaries and other crimes.

As a society, we must confront the fact that we have dumped a lot
of mentally ill people on the streets in the past 25 years.

We remain convinced that elected officials, civic leaders and
social service groups need to work together over the next few
months to find a suitable replacement for the current Bread &
Roses soup kitchen, regardless of who operates it.

Clarifying their mission

Bread & Roses officials didn't do their cause any good last week
when they waffled between a plan to expand their operations
downtown and a plan to relocate all of their services at a Devoe
Street property in east Olympia where they operate a housing shelter.

Neither expansion plan appears well thought out. Strained relations
between Bread & Roses and community leaders just grew a little
worse in recent days.

The challenge is clear.

The Bread & Roses board of directors -- in consultation with civic
leaders and community residents -- must develop a clear mission
statement and adopt a plan on how they will accomplish it.

They must embrace a long-range facilities plan, set clear
financial goals, identify funding sources and adopt a plan for
achieving financial success.

Then the community must rally around that plan to continue the
important business of feeding the hungry in South Sound.


2002 The Olympian

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