Soup kitchen, shelter fight never-ending battles

Published 8:22 am Tuesday, March 10, 2009

By Staff
The fact that most of us don’t need them doesn’t in the least diminish the importance of the area’s social-service organizations. Several of these, including Washington’s Interchurch Shelter and Kitchen and Options to Domestic Violence, are crucial to the well- being of some people in our area.
For homeless men, the shelter provides a roof, bathroom, laundry facilities — and safety. The kitchen, open daily to anyone needing a good meal, is a reliable port in a storm for people down on their luck.
And given the economic challenges facing us these days, it’s a wonder more people don’t take advantage of these services. According to Robert Harris, director of the Interchurch Shelter and Kitchen, the soup kitchen seems to be a well-kept secret. He’s concerned people are not getting the services they need.
The shelter — located with the soup kitchen in the basement of the Metropolitan AME Zion Church — provides lodging for up to 16 men, but its focus has shifted to feeding the hungry, Harris said.
Options — which is currently reorganizing after losing, then regaining, state funding — accepts women who are victims of domestic violence. In some cases, Options also offers shelter to the victims’ children.
Options and the shelter/kitchen will no doubt draw more users if statistics being compiled by the N.C. Coalition to End Homelessness are any indication. Coalition Director Susan Birdsong noted last week that the poor economy is affecting daily routines.
Most economists predict the recession will last through 2009, so the importance of these organizations and others like them will continue to grow. But even when the recession is behind us, some people will still need these services. Unfortunately, that will probably never change.
It’s heartening to know, however, that people like Harris and his volunteers are concerned enough to fight the seemingly never-ending battle of homelessness and hunger.