Every day a Salvation Army mobile feeding unit makes nearly 30 stops throughout Chicago providing a hot meal to those who are homeless or near homeless. When the canteen makes a stop, individuals can get a cup of hot soup or stew, a snack and something to drink. But that’s not all. Staff members are there to offer a smile, hearty handshake and listen to news of the day.
“The food is our calling card,” said Major Nancy Powers, officer at The Salvation Army Freedom Center – the mobile feeding unit’s home base. “But we give them more than food. We give them friendship. We show them love. And when they’re ready, we’re here to help them leave the streets.”
People from all walks of life visit the Army’s canteen: veterans; families down on their luck; people living on the street for a variety of reasons; and people who welcome the meals because it’s the one steady thing they can count on. One man used to volunteer as a bellringer during Christmas when he was younger. All of them are thankful for the food and the friendship.
Richard Vargas oversees the canteen operations, and always talks with people as they wait in line. He knows their names and they know his. They’re friends checking up on each other. “I just check in with them,” Vargas says. “I ask how they’re doing. Are they working? Where are they living? If they’re living on the streets – are they ready to leave? And we just talk. They know I’m not here to judge. I’m here – the Army is here – to help.”
At each stop, staff are available to help with a variety of issues – seeking substance abuse treatment, finding stable housing, obtaining state IDs and more. On this particular day, Vargas and his team were also handing out personal hygiene kits assembled by employees at Chicago-area Apple Stores. The kits were very popular and were gone in a matter of minutes.
If you or your group is interested in making hygiene kits to be distributed, please email our volunteer department or call 773.205.3532.