Lessons learned from a soup kitchen

Posted By: John Moore · 12/23/2012 11:17:00 AM

On Friday Kym Geddes (or Kymmie as Doug Ford likes to call her) signed a bunch of us up to work at The Good Sheppard shelter on Queen Street East. Good Sheppard is a Catholic mission that has been running since 1963 in a creaky century old building. The first floor has a chapel and large dining hall. The second floor is a drug and alcohol rehab center and the third floor is showers and sleeping quarters for about 60 men. The sleeping quarters are nothing more than cubicles with bunk beds. But they're better than sleeping on the street. The bedding is changed and washed every single day.

Part of our tour was the donations room. What a revelation. Whenever I have contributed to a food drive I always figured the food was sorted out and put into boxes for individual families. I'm sure that happens but at Good Sheppard the basement is filled to overflowing with boxes of individual food donations. That means to make a single soup for one day's lunch the cook may have to open 200 cans. She's a magician. Into that same stock she will throw canned vegetables, lentils and some cut up sausage. She balances the task of maximizing her resources with the objective of providing a tasty and nourishing meal. 

Friday was a slow day at Good Sheppard; only about 150 people filed past us at the cafeteria style counter where we served up soup, a pasta and meat dish, slices of bread, apple pie and fresh tangerines. Over the course of the two hours more food arrived including salads and vegetables. They were leftovers from a corporate lunch somewhere. On a busy day, around the time that those who receive government cheques start running out of money Good Sheppard can serve upwards of 800. There were few if any clients this time who looked like they were one semester of night school away from getting a job. These are seriously damaged people. Some obviously suffering from mental illness, Natives and immigrants for whom the dream hasn’t worked out and others ravaged by alcohol, drugs and disease. There were a couple of well dressed guys. I suspected they might have low paying jobs and opt for the soup kitchen in order to stretch their earnings for themselves or their families. I wondered what it might be like to go home after putting in a work day and trying to hide the fact from your kids that to keep a roof over their heads you eat in a soup kitchen. 

Good Sheppard is peopled with priests and dedicated lay people. Volunteers staff the lunch counter every day. They serve the lowliest in our society knowing very well that for many of them there will be no escape. That's why Seaton House has a palliative care unit, so these people can die in a warm bed and with dignity. 

I wish anyone who has ever used the phrases "poverty industry" or "poverty pimp" could spend just one day working here. Anyone who thinks the poor are lazy and that shelter programs are run by people whose main interest is staying in the "business" of catering to homeless people is either ignorant or heartless. The next time some jerk starts banging the drum about how much we spoil the poor in this city tell them to see the Father at Good Sheppard about spending an afternoon there. 

Merry Christmas. And thanks for making 2012 our most successful year on NewsTalk 1010 and for Moore in the Morning. NewsTalk is now Toronto's go to radio station for news, perspective and great personalities. See you in 2013.


John Moore

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  • 13
  1. Henri Moretti posted on 12/23/2012 01:34 PM
    Check out the Jerry Agar Christmas Carol posted in the comments of Agar's latest blog.
  2. Donna posted on 12/23/2012 02:57 PM
    Thank you for sharing your experience. Thank you to Kym for volunteering your group.
    Thanks for the reminder of how blessed I am.
    Merry Christmas and Happy Healthy New Year!
  3. Hrad Poladian posted on 12/24/2012 08:10 AM
    Thank you for the great work you did. Now if you could only identify the others in the picture with you.

    I think I recognized Ryan Doyle.
  4. Waran Vaithilingam posted on 12/24/2012 09:21 AM
    I am suprised by seeing "Ryan Doyle the REDNECK" here, Does not he things homeless are "Visual Distruction"? or may be a photo op for him. Who is the lovly ladsy beside John Moore?
    1. Brandon posted on 12/25/2012 04:00 PM
      @Waran Vaithilingam I voted NDP. I am a left wing person through and through. I agree far more often with John Downs than I do with Ryan Doyle. But through the year of listening to him nightly not once, not one time at all, did I think he'd be the kind of person that would think the homeless people are a "visual distraction" and that he would do something for a photo op. Yes, he is conservative, but if you actually listened to what he said and where he lands on most topics you'd know he's a decent human being that doesn't crap all over those that are less fortunate. (Cept for maybe the guy being deported even though he was raised in Canada, but even then that guy has a serious criminal record)
  5. Waran Vaithilingam posted on 12/24/2012 09:24 AM
    I am surprised by seeing "Ryan Doyle the REDNECK" here, Does not he things homeless are "Visual Destruction"? or may be a photo op for him. Who is the lovely lady beside John Moore?
  6. Hall posted on 12/24/2012 10:27 AM
    Well done! Very good of you to share your experience and get the word out on the real homeless. Merry Christmas!
  7. DMCP posted on 12/24/2012 12:16 PM
    Nice Christmas story until you had to go political. Charitable work must always be in the domain of volunteers, private benefactors, religious affiliations and service groups. The poverty pimps you refer to are government and public service agencies.
  8. Sammy posted on 12/24/2012 11:13 PM
    A great piece! Good for you.
    The Agar Xmas story is good too...not as touching, but it made me laugh!
    Happy Holidays!
  9. carol ann johnson posted on 12/25/2012 03:08 AM
    Merry Christmas to all and thanks for making us proud to live here in our beautiful..There ARE people like all of you who do this regularly, and go unnoticed..We thank them today..Christmas brings out the best in us Canadian, and makes us who we are..THANKS~
  10. mike posted on 12/27/2012 07:54 PM
    A total waste of taxpayers money!!!!!!!!!
  11. joan posted on 12/30/2012 08:49 AM
    I volunteer every Christmas I feel I should volunteer more often it really makes me feel good . Happy new year and thanks for listening
    1. DMCP posted on 12/30/2012 09:43 PM
      @joan Bless you and thank you.
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