by Crystal Teresa Wolfe
From Scriptures we know we all have a purpose under heaven. We are born to use our gifts to help others and to glorify God. Because God wastes nothing, we are also meant to transform and transcend our painful experiences and circumstances for the benefit of others. When we know there is suffering and injustice around us, I believe we can be used as God’s hands on this earth to alleviate that suffering. Hope can be found in the solutions, and every problem has a solution.
I’ve coined homelessness “the cause of the heart,” because it is the rock-bottom issue of our times. It has become a national, as well as a global, epidemic. There have never been so many people without a home in the history of the United States. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, 70 percent of the homeless in New York City are families, 40 percent of whom are children.
As a child who grew up in an abusive home, surrounded by addicts and briefly made homeless because of it, I understand and relate to this issue — from the inside out. When I was 10 years old, my mother’s boyfriend, who we were living with, died of alcoholism. We were subsequently rendered homeless by his family, who changed the locks right after his funeral.
As I was going through those hard times, God blessed me with the ability to write my feelings down, which helped me to process my circumstances in a healthy way. I share some of my own story, my mother’s story, dozens of personal stories of homeless people I’ve interviewed and the synopsis of 107 celebrities who’ve been homeless in my book, “Our Invisible Neighbors: Accounts, Causes, & Solutions to the Epidemic of Homelessness.”
I hope everyone who reads the stories in the book may find a little bit of themselves in them, realizing that homelessness could happen to any one of us. Jesus Christ was poor and had “no home to rest his head” while he dwelt here on earth. When I look at the homeless, I feel like I am looking at the broken heart of Christ, or his body covered in scars. When we help the homeless, I know we are serving God himself.
While 133 billion pounds of food goes to waste in this country every year, one in five people in New York City goes hungry on a regular basis. I believe that no one should be going hungry while billions of pounds of quality food are going to waste. That’s why I founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit — Catering for the Homeless Inc. — to give excess food from catering companies, schools, restaurants and grocery stores to the homeless and poor.
There are now 75 partners in my network. Together we have provided about 210 bags of clothes, 13,500 toiletries and 30,000 meals for the homeless and poor thus far.
Please go to cateringforthehomeless.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, to donate, or to become a partner. My books can be found on Amazon and Kindle, and a portion of the proceeds from each book purchase goes toward feeding and serving the homeless.
In New York City, 10 percent of the children attending school are homeless. State Sen. Joseph Addabbo of Queens passed a food law in September 2017, encouraging schools throughout New York from pre-K to the college level to donate their excess food to charities that can distribute the food to the less fortunate. However, the Department of Education (DOE) must opt into this law before the schools will comply.
Using the excess food from schools would help solve the hunger crisis in New York. It would also set a precedent for the rest of the country. Teachers have told me the DOE not only makes schools throw away tons of good food, they bleach it so that no one can use it.
Many educators want to donate this excess food to the children who are coming to school hungry and to those who desperately need it in the community, but the DOE won’t let them. Teachers beseech me not to give up this cause, but I cannot make this happen alone.
The more signatures on my petition
the more likely the DOE will be to allow schools to donate their excess food. Please use your voice to support this effort to end hunger, and alleviate homelessness, by signing this petition.
Wolfe founded Catering for the Homeless Inc. She’s a recent convert to Catholicism and a parishioner at St. Sebastian’s, Woodside.