In the community

Local homeless ponder possibility that Ontario meal service could close

ONTARIO – Felipe spends his days digging through dumpsters to find discarded items that he might sell.

Anthony collects cans and then walks to Walmart to turn them in and get cash.

Scott and his girlfriend Melany live on the porches of abandoned houses or anywhere else they can find shelter.

Jayme is a cancer survivor who lives in a travel trailer.

All five are homeless and depend on the New Hope Kitchen at Origins Faith Community Church for survival.

All five wished to only give their first names in interviews with the Enterprise.

They are part of a large group of homeless people who gathered at noon on Friday, Sept. 29, to get a free meal from the kitchen and to enjoy fellowship with dozens of others who are unhoused.

Most were at least vaguely familiar with the news that the kitchen was in danger of closing and all said that would be a disaster.

“I would go hungry,” said Scott.

The future of the New Hope Kitchen was in doubt last week when officials with the Origins Faith Community Church confirmed a state grant funding the meal site was terminated. The grant also provided funding for the organization’s substance abuse recovery program. Without the grant money, the New Hope Kitchen cannot remain open.

Emergency funding will keep the meal service going two more weeks.

The New Hope Kitchen, is tucked into the back part of Origins Faith at 312 N.W. Second St. in Ontario.

On Friday, Sept. 29, the homeless filtered in and out of the cafeteria-like room occupied by a long, wide white table. Here, the homeless gathered and munched on a meal of chicken.

Some talked about their goals for the day – shelter being the top priority – or complained about the weather. The kitchen is open five days a week, providing a sanctuary of sorts for many who fight a daily skirmish to for shelter and stay alive.

Scott and Melany recently held full-time jobs but were laid off and have been on the streets since.

The kitchen is a safe harbor, Melany said.

“It means we can get help now, not in five days when we have frozen to death,” said Melany.

Like many of the unhoused who seek a meal at the New Hope Kitchen, Scott’s life was impacted by substance abuse.

“I lost my 26-year-old son in a car accident. Then I relapsed,” he said.

Clean now, his challenges remain.

“While I’m clean it isn’t making it any easier to find a place,” he said.

Scott, who is also a veteran, said he believes there is a misconception regarding the homeless.

“I think people think we are all here because we do drugs and that isn’t necessarily the case,” he said.

Many people, he said, have simply been hit by a set of unforeseen life tragedies that, in one way or another, pushed them out onto the streets.

For Jayme, 43, the loss of the kitchen will be “bad for everybody.”
“The great thing about this (the kitchen) is they want to help you out. It is more than a handful of help. This is an innocent good,” he said.

Scott said the value of the meal site can’t be over emphasized.

“This is the most important place in Ontario as far as the homeless are concerned. There is safety here,” he said.

Anthony said the kitchen “is a place where people can open up. We are all pretty much all we got,” he said.

He said that the kitchen provides him certainty that he can at least get one meal.

As the noon day meal crowd began to thin out, Scott and Melany stood outside and chatted with Chris. Someone produced a cigarette and they shared a smoke. There was a joke, some laughter and then they turned and focused on the next few hours and the unending search to find a place of shelter.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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