Feeding Homeless Amid COVID-19 Restrictions

COVID-19 impacted our lives in ways we had never seen. Our homeless ministries were no exception.

In early June, the Rev. Mary Sullivan became aware that homeless people were not being fed.

As Sullivan walked into St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Toledo one Wednesday, she was encountered by a homeless woman who asked what she was drinking. After Sullivan responded, "iced tea," the woman asked boldly if she could have a drink because she was so thirsty.

The impact of COVID-19 created restrictions and protocols on agencies to contain the spread of the virus. Yet, ministry to the hungry still needed to happen.

That moment moved Sullivan to act. She contacted the Rev. Rae Lynn Schlief, assistant to the district superintendent for Maumee Watershed, and formed a strategy. Schlief secured funding and volunteers, while Sullivan worked on the food and logistics. The goal was to feed 50 homeless people six days a week. "Because of who we are as a compassionate district," Sullivan said, "within 24 hours, six anchor churches took the lead so no homeless person would go hungry."

Each church contacted committed finances, volunteers and a day of the week to prepare and distribute meals. The anchor churches are Whitehouse Hope, Maumee, Epworth, Perrysburg Grace, Sylvania First and Toledo St. Paul's.

Within five days of the initial call, the first meal was handed out at 10 a.m. at St. Paul's.

In the next 18 weeks, members of a United Methodist congregation will be downtown at St. Paul's UMC to make sure homeless people have access to a meal. On Saturdays, an ecumenical ministry serves a hot breakfast for that same population.

Currently serving close to 50 meals per day, Schlief expects the need to grow to 100.

"This is local 'connectionalism' at its best," Schlief said. "Our district comes through as a whole when there is a need."