Outreach lunches attract people from all walks of life
BURTON — Scott Baker may be sleeping in a tent every night and standing day after day in the cold with a sign asking for help because he’s homeless, but he has found a gleam of hope.
He is one of several people who attends Holy Redeemer Catholic Church’s outreach lunches weekly.
Baker said he’s been homeless nine years and living in a tent about six months.
“I’ve slept in abandoned houses, abandoned trailers and abandoned garages,” Baker said. “I can’t go to a shelter because I don’t have ID. My buddy Brian invited me to live in a tent with him after I met him on the streets.”
Baker said he became homeless after he got laid off from his job as a garbage collector.
“I was driving the garbage trucks and working on the back of the trucks,” he said.
He has since then held up a sign asking for monetary help on Miller Road and 75 before it became illegal to panhandle in Flint Township. He also said he panhandled on Corunna and Ballenger roads, Court Street and Center Road, 69 and Center Road, Center and Lapeer roads and most recently Bristol Road and Grand Traverse Street.
Baker said sometimes people say mean things to him when he holds up his sign, which reads ‘homeless. please help. God bless.’
“People sometimes say get a job, you (expletive) bum, as they drive down the road,” Baker said. “It’s not my fault I got laid off. I’m trying to get mail, to get some ID, so I can get a job. I would like to go back to trash, but I need to do something to survive.”
Baker said he and his tentmate were the first ones at Holy Redeemer’s out- reach lunch on Feb. 2.
“I ate spaghetti, corn, green beans, a piece of chicken, crackers, cheese and sausage sticks,” Baker said.
He also said he received several clothing items, as well as a pair of boots at the lunch. There is a table there in which people can donate items.
Baker, who has been attending the lunches for about five months, said he is a Christian and he believes there were still good people in the world.
“I appreciate anything they do for me,” he said.
Rafael Urgino, director of evangelization at Holy Redeemer, said initially the lunches, which began in September 2016, were not intended for homeless people. In fact, he said some church staff thought if homeless people came to the lunches, it would scare other people. He said the staff was just thinking there were neighbors they didn’t know and that not everyone is Catholic.
“It’s not a soup kitchen,” said Urgino. “It is faith-based because there’s a scripture service beforehand.”
Courtney Ramirez has been attending the lunches almost every week since they began. However, her reasons for attending may be different than those of Baker’s.
“I like to socialize with people, bring my two-year-old daughter and sometimes my seven-year old daughter, have a good meal and bring food back to my husband who is usually working during the lunches,” said Ramirez, who is a stay-at-home mother.
Ramirez said one person she socializes with at the lunches is a former customer she had when she worked at VG’s Grocery store.
“It brings people together,” she said. “There’s people from all walks of life.”
Ramirez said she has interacted with homeless people at the lunches, and she doesn’t judge people because everyone has problems.
“It gives the homeless people a warm, safe place to get the help they need,” Ramirez said. “It may not just be a meal, but help with housing, a job or emotional and spiritual support.”
Ramirez said she felt it was important to bring food items sometimes and help with cleanup.
“It feels good to contribute,” she said.
Ramirez, who is Baptist and attends a different church, said she liked the fact the lunches were faith-based and that the people were friendly.
Attorney Gene Myers, who is a longtime member of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, also has attended the lunches weekly since they began. Myers said the lunches have resulted in “good vibrations” with people in the neighborhood.
“Sometimes people don’t want to talk, but when you sit down and talk to them, they get more comfortable,” Myers said. “The more we’re in tuned to the community, the more people in it feel wanted and liked.”
Myers said he occasionally brings food for the lunches, as well as tells people he sees on the streets about the lunches and the church, in general.
“We don’t care if they walk the streets,” he said “They’re still our brothers and sisters. Christ said what you do for the least of your brothers, you do unto me. We’re supposed to take care of each other.”
Myers also helps at the church’s food pantry and has given people he meets rides, such as to doctor’s appointments.
He said everyone is welcome to outreach lunches at his church.
“If someone has a plumbing problem, someone else can say there’s a plumber over there,” Myers said. “One guy that comes does household repairs and he is helpful to have attend. Sometimes people have legal questions and we lawyers that come can refer them to agencies. That’s the good thing about having a mix of people there.”
The scripture service is held every Thursday at 11:15 a.m., followed by lunch at 12-1:30 p.m. at. G-3468 S. Grand Traverse, in the basement of the old Holy Redeemer Catholic School building. Some of the family members who own Tia Helita’s restaurant typically provide the food, with other people sometimes providing desserts or offering to pay for the lunch.
“You can see lawyers sitting next to homeless people enjoying a meal,” said Urgino. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
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