Updated: Mar 24, 2022
Imagine being poor. Imagine being hungry. Imagine needing shelter. To most of us this is unimaginable. But it happens. It happened to a 65 year old veteran who thought he was living in a home owned by a family member to discover upon her death that she did not own the home. He cannot afford the rent and is forced into homelessness. He begins abusing alcohol and his life spirals out of control. He seeks shelter. It happened to a single mother of two who loses residency in her sister’s house. She spends her money on a motel. She loses her job because she no longer has child care and cannot afford transportation. She seeks shelter. It happened to an aspiring professional who secured a job and relocated with all the money he has only to find that the job is no longer available due to a hiring freeze. He seeks shelter. None of these individuals are stereotypes of the poor, the homeless or the hungry, but it happens.
For 30 + years Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD) has connected with the community to end homelessness and fight poverty by offering food, shelter and a future to neighbors in need. It serves as THE public shelter for single adults in Durham and the back-up shelter for families. UMD is equal opportunity and assists anyone in need. Assistance comes from a variety of community resources including faith based organizations, where Neighbors Assist Neighbors in providing shelter, food staples, clothing and meals in a Community Cafe.
Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church has a long history of providing food for the hungry through the Community Cafe. Money awarded by our Outreach Ministry Team funds a monthly dinner meal for shelter residents and the community at large who take their meals at UMD. On the fourth Thursday of each month individuals from our congregation, families, friends, and groups such as the Circle of Hope, Diaconate, Girl Scouts, etc., plate and distribute anywhere between 150-250 meals. The people we encounter there are varied, but a common desire to share our resources with them exists; we feel called to do so.
Ashlee Smart reminds us, "We are called as Christians to serve. I can hear the words of Jesus as I look into the eyes of the people coming through the lines for what might be their only meal of the day.” The opportunity reminds her of a passage found in Matthew 25: 31-40, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
NCCU Presbyterian Campus Minister British Hyrams shares, “Our neighbors in need are beloved to the Lord. Serving them is like serving Jesus himself. I feel close to God when serving at UMD.”
Stephanie Riley and her family have been long-time supporters of this ministry. She says, “I am honored to provide nourishment to individuals who need it the most in our community. It is a way for me to connect with people in the food line. It is my hope that a smile and a greeting paired with a plate of food can brighten someone’s day.” Personally I am humbled by the opportunity to provide sustenance, acceptance, a smile and God’s love to those in need alongside others who are so willing to give of themselves.