CCS gets creative to feed, house homeless during the coronavirus pandemic

Edwin Barber, a member of St. Paul Parish in Seattle and owner of Catering by Edwin, helped provide dinners for homeless people who Catholic Community Services of Western Washington has moved from its shelters and into hotels during the COVID-19 epidemic. Photo: Courtesy Edwin Barber Edwin Barber, a member of St. Paul Parish in Seattle and owner of Catering by Edwin, helped provide dinners for homeless people who Catholic Community Services of Western Washington has moved from its shelters and into hotels during the COVID-19 epidemic. Photo: Courtesy Edwin Barber

SEATTLE – A crowdfunding campaign is one of the creative ways Catholic Community Services has been feeding and hosting homeless people in hotels during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re patching together different donations and volunteers” to provide meals for nearly 200 adults and children who have moved from CCS shelters to five hotels around King County, said Erin Maguire, a network builder for Catholic Community Services of Western Washington in King County.

Another 100 people from CCS shelters are staying at a SeaTac hotel, which has been leased by King County and is being managed by CCS, Maguire said. CCS will soon move 40 to 80 more people into area hotels, and the hope is to get the estimated 200 people remaining in CCS shelters into hotels, too, she said.

“Our goal is to get everyone out of congregate shelter” during the COVID-19 outbreak, Maguire said. The best move for their existing shelter clients, she said, “is to put everybody in a hotel.”

Knights, parishes, governments are helping the effort

The nonprofit is using a variety of sources to pay for its hotel rooms, including emergency money from King County, the city of Seattle and suburban cities; a donation from Starbucks to help families; and funds to support disabled people and veterans, Maguire said.

A combination of sources is also being used to provide meals.

Knights of Columbus Council 676 of Seattle has hired Classic Catering to provide 100 meals a day for 30 days at the SeaTac hotel, supplementing CCS’ contract with Operation Sack Lunch to feed those guests.

To fund the meal outreach, the Knights are using proceeds from the 2018 sale of their longtime club building on Capitol Hill, explained Larry Kessler, a past grand knight and a member of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in Seattle.

“When we sold the building, it was an opportunity to kind of reach out and extend our charitable hands and dip into things,” Kessler said.

And the COVID-19 situation gave them a chance to help a caterer they have done a lot of business with, as well as do something for others in need, he explained.

Parishes have also been helping the meal effort. St. Philomena Parish in Des Moines is buying pizza once a week for the 100 guests at the SeaTac hotel. St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Federal Way is providing daily lunches to a dozen adults and children staying at a Federal Way hotel, while three Eastside parishes — Holy Family in Kirkland, St. Louise de Marillac in Bellevue and St. Brendan in Bothell — are supporting families from the New Bethlehem Day Center in Kirkland who are now staying at a Redmond hotel, Maguire said. St. James Cathedral Parish responded when Maguire put out a request to provide “a lot of coffee” for hotel guests.

Since late March, Seattle Preparatory School has been making and delivering lunches to five hotels and is now providing 600 meals a week, Maguire said.

Helping caterers while helping the hungry

A crowdfunding campaign — a collaboration of CCS, the Archdiocese of Seattle, Maryknoll, Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center and parishes — raised more than $14,500, enough to fund nearly four weeks of dinners made by local caterers, she said.

For caterers Edwin Barber and Kenney Rogers, providing 1,162 meals, even at much less than their usual per-person rate, gave them some work as their clients were canceling events due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I got about 25 events canceled on me between March 14 and June 3,” said Barber, owner of Catering by Edwin and a member of St. Paul Parish in south Seattle. Preparing and delivering meals for the CCS clients helped a bit financially, while giving him a chance to help others.

“It’s a blessing that I could do something,” said Barber, who also volunteers to provide meals for those in need at Holy Spirit Parish in Kent and St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Renton. He also provides lunches for St. George School, said Patty Repikoff, CCS’ pastoral advocate for mission.

Rogers, co-owner of Rain City Catering in Renton, normally caters corporate events and weddings and has a contract with the Seattle Mariners. When COVID-19 restrictions took effect, “we went from a record-breaking year, to nothing,” Rogers said. The contract with CCS “got us working and kept us alive,” he said.

It also gave him a chance to use the quality products that were just sitting in his refrigerator and freezer to create meals like beef tenderloin stroganoff and meatballs with penne pasta for the CCS clients.

“At the end of the day … the best part is through this we’re able to help people,” Rogers said.

Jean Parietti

Jean Parietti is the local news editor for NWCatholic.org and features editor for Northwest Catholic magazine. You can reach her at jean.parietti@seattlearch.org.
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Jean Parietti es editora local para el sitio web NWCatholic.org y destacada editora de la revista Noroeste Católico/Northwest Catholic. Pueden contactarle en: jean.parietti@seattlearch.org.