Volunteer service events, even on a modest scale, require a generous spirit—and a serious effort. This month, on Dec. 13th and 20th, we rolled up our sleeves in partnership with two District outreach groups to help Feed the People. Here’s what we learned.
First, you may ask, why is a legal services nonprofit working to feed the homeless?
Day in and day out, our Civil Division attorneys work with clients who are burdened with unaffordable rents, substandard housing conditions, and the imminent risk of eviction. Many are just a step away from losing their homes and living on the street. In 2016, homelessness in DC jumped 15% and nearly 50 homeless people died on District streets. Says LSIC Supervising Attorney Jay Kim,
“Housing in the District is incredibly expensive and there aren’t enough jobs that pay a living wage. It’s imperative that we address the systemic issue of poverty. One way we can start to do this is by building relationships with those who are directly affected by homelessness.”
Who’s organizing the effort?
Sima Lee is the brainchild behind Feed the People, a community service project that delivers meals, winter clothing, and toiletry care packages to District residents in need. A veteran community activist and LSIC collaborator, Sima co-founded the Food, Clothing & Resistance Collective (FCRC), a nonprofit that regularly provides free food, clothing, household items, toiletries, and classes from its NE location at The Peace House. LSIC partnered with FCRC, The Peace House, and Blackout: Generation Liberation to co-sponsor both events.
“Our work to feed the homeless isn’t a fad or the newest Twitter trend of outrage,” notes Sima. “It’s the same old work of looking out for each other. People in this town are hungry year round, but when the temperatures start to dip, it’s especially felt amongst our homeless residents.”
Getting the Word Out
Sima worked with the LSIC communications team and FCRC members to promote Feed the People on social media. We needed volunteers to donate cash, food, and clothing; transport supplies; and serve food on the day of each event.
Friends and supporters pitched in. One Peace House resident is a good cook and offered to prepare the main meal. LSIC staff donated meat, beans, and spices. An intern scored some used coats by posting a letter on her neighborhood list serv. And Sima made a lot of calls.
The Big Day
On the morning of both events, a volunteer transit team met at the Peace House to assemble wellness packs containing toiletry items and healthy snack foods.
At around noon, they loaded the meal and supplies into their cars and headed over to Franklin Park, a popular spot in NW DC where homeless people congregate during the day. There they served hot chili, turkey dinners, spaghetti, cake, and bottled water to women and men throughout the afternoon.
Gently used winter coats, sweaters, gloves, scarves, and hats were on hand for the taking.
It means a lot when people receive nourishment and sustenance as a result of Feed the People events, especially when you consider that many homeless individuals eat only a few meals a week or suffer from irregular diets. The events are held downtown during office hours to raise awareness of hunger in the District and to express solidarity for those in need.
Soliciting volunteers and donations will always be a challenge, according to Sima. But with a few events under our belt, planning and logistics get easier and the costs to execute these events decrease.
“It always warms my heart to give back,” states Moses Cook, LSIC Executive Director. “But it’s greater than that. As one of three organizations committed to community outreach, we get a chance to work together and hear from our homeless neighbors—to break down the isolation and show them we care.”
With community legal education at its core, LSIC is collaborating on other outreach activities with the Peace House and FCRC. Read about Fight The Power Open Mic (Law & Lyrics), a social justice art event held on December 16th.
Like to Get Involved?