by Fr. Dennis Gonzales, Parocial Vicar, St. Ann Church, West Palm Beach
As the COVID pandemic hit the country, which prompted authorities to institute lockdown and social distancing, there is one particular sector of our society that has been hard hit by this entire condition: our homeless brothers and sisters.
While many of us may be able to stay at or work from home with our pantries and refrigerators filled with stocks of food, the homeless do not have this kind of prerogative. Many of the common places in which they find shelter, including parks, have been closed. Some soup kitchens are also closing due to lack of food or workers.
The pandemic wreaks havoc for these people who already lack shelter and access to hygiene and basic food supplies even before the outbreak. This situation is like salt applied to their wounds.
In response to this concern, St. Ann’s Place, located on Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, has expanded its days of operation since the lockdown. From its regular 5-day a week operation, it’s now open 7 days a week to provide meals and other services to the homeless.
According to John Pescosolido, St. Ann Place Executive Director, there are over 150 individuals coming to the place every single day. Their regular staff of 10 cover all the tasks since volunteers are temporarily suspended from coming.
You see the joy and dynamism of each one to report to work, prepare the kitchen, and pack sandwiches ready for distribution. Their presence, dedication and smile bring a significant impact on their clients. One homeless person said, “They are doing such a great job. I could not imagine where to get food and support if they are not here. This is a horrific time for many of us.”
St. Ann Place staff on a Saturday morning after distributing breakfast to the homeless.
Although it’s a challenge to implement social distancing, the staff always makes sure that the guidelines are followed in their vicinity. They have implemented an organized institutional system to protect everybody. Employees refrain from handling clients’ belongings. They wear face coverings and gloves. All meals are pre-packed, so clients could take them away quickly and easily.
John is immensely thankful for the continued support of its donors and benefactors. “Their generous contributions made our every endeavor possible. God bless them.”
St. Ann Place is St. Ann’s Church outreach center for services to the homeless. It provides a comfortable, clean, and safe place to clients regardless of race, religion, or gender. Throughout the years, St. Ann Place has expanded its services to include breakfast and lunch, a food stamp program, birth certificates, and ID for clients, an address to receive mail as well as a health advocacy program. As more and more needs for the homeless are identified, St. Ann Place has expanded its programs to meet these needs.