In mid-November, Michelle Williams, 34, and her seven children suddenly became homeless. Her husband moved them into the family van, parking it overnight in a warehouse store lot or in someone’s front yard.
On weekday mornings, they all headed out for a hot, nutritious breakfast at the Maryhouse Hospitality Center for Homeless Women along North C Street in downtown Sacramento.
As Williams prodded her 22-month-old twins to eat their eggs, hot cereal and milk, she talked about how important Maryhouse is to her family.
“We had been living with somebody but they put us out,” she said. “Too many children,” she said, shrugging. “You know how that goes.” Without Maryhouse, “I’d probably be begging for help.” She’s grateful for the meals and she’s also hoping Maryhouse will help her with other services, too.
The Williams family is among 35 to 40 homeless women and children who avail themselves of Maryhouse’s hospitality. It’s the kind of place where guests can eat and share their latest situation with crisis staff, get short term help and identify longer-term solutions.
The good news is that Debbie Thomas, Maryhouse’s intake specialist, got the Williams family “on the list for family shelter,” directed them down the street to get warm coats for the children, and promised they could take showers upstairs later in the day. “It is wonderful to help try to remove the barriers.”
Behind the dining room is the kitchen, where Hope Lantieri, chef and breakfast coordinator, directs volunteer cooks and food assemblers. She’s proud that her team prepared more than 2,500 breakfasts last month, but she readily admits a current kitchen challenge. It isn’t the food. It is those failing griddles.
She bent down to a lower kitchen shelf and pulled out one of four 12-inch-long griddles they use most of the time.
“It’s the heating element. We go through three of these griddles every two months,” she said. It may be good enough for “a home chef who makes a grilled cheese sandwich once in a while or pancakes once a month,” she said, but replacing three of these every two months isn’t sustainable. The good news is there is a better way if their dream comes true.
Maryhouse is asking Book of Dreams for funds to buy a restaurant-quality griddle. They are made to last, and instead of having to buy three every two months, it would be a buy “once-and-done” solution.
If last year is any indication, the kitchen will benefit greatly. In 2016, Maryhouse cooked 23,000 hot breakfasts, serving 4,000 homeless women and children, many in crisis.
Needed: A restaurant-quality griddle for the Maryhouse Hospitality Center for Homeless Women