With overflow shelters on hold, parishes provide meals for the homeless

  • Written by Nathan Whalen
  • Published in Local
Dianne DuSault, a member of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Seattle, prepares chicken enchilada casserole for homeless people being served at Catholic Community Services shelters this winter. Photo: Courtesy Dianne DuSault Dianne DuSault, a member of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Seattle, prepares chicken enchilada casserole for homeless people being served at Catholic Community Services shelters this winter. Photo: Courtesy Dianne DuSault

SEATTLE – On a recent Tuesday, Dianne DuSault and her daughter Tracy Craft teamed up to make chicken enchilada casserole for men staying at a shelter operated by Catholic Community Services of Western Washington.

“It’s been a wonderful mother/daughter experience and an opportunity to serve,” DuSault, a member of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Seattle, said in an email. “I know this is what our church is all about! What a blessing it is live our faith together.”

In a normal year, Our Lady of Fatima would be hosting a men’s overflow shelter in the parish office building two nights a week from October through March. But COVID-19 has disrupted the CCS overflow shelter program at eight churches around Seattle.

Despite the pandemic, “we wanted to continue the winter shelter mandate,” said Sue Patneaude, an Our Lady of Fatima parishioner who helped coordinate the parish shelter. This winter, some 35 families are staying involved by making sandwiches on Mondays and hot meals on Tuesdays — everything from Filipino dishes to mac and cheese, she said. Volunteers package the meals in single-serve to-go containers for easy distribution, and 12 people volunteer to deliver meals to the shelter.

“It’s so nice with the guys getting hot food and hearty sandwiches,” said Jeff Cathey, program manager for CCS’ St. Martin de Porres men’s shelter in downtown Seattle. “The guys really appreciate it.”

CCS shelters serving men and women are also getting help from St. James Cathedral, St. Joseph, St. Benedict, Holy Rosary and Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle; St. Monica on Mercer Island; St. Francis of Assisi Parish and School in Burien; Mary, Queen of Peace in Sammamish; and St. Philomena in Des Moines, Cathey said.

Sandwiches are delivered to St. Martin de Porres, which distributes them to other shelters, Cathey said. Warm meals are delivered to the Junction Point Shelter on Elliott Avenue West, which opened in September 2020 through a partnership of King County and CCS to serve 45 people over age 50.

With concerns about living in close quarters during the pandemic, more than 260 men usually served at St. Martin’s have been staying at other facilities, including hotels and the new shelter, Cathey said.

About 13 men remain St. Martin’s, which is being renovated with cubicles that will ensure social distancing and provide each guest with a bed and lockable storage chest, said Jennifer Newman, program director for Catholic Community Services of King County.

It’s an opportunity, she said, “to serve people in a more dignified way rather than mats on the floor.”

At Our Lady of Fatima, parishioners continue collecting and distributing hygiene kits (including facemasks) to the homeless.

At St. James, parishioners are collecting food items — including sandwich ingredients, canned soups and stews and purchased casseroles — and delivering them to a hotel where Catholic Community Services is hosting homeless men and women, said Patrick Barredo, the cathedral’s director of social outreach and ministry. They’re also delivering food to the Federal Way Day Center, where homeless adults and families can meet basic needs and obtain services.

“We’ve had many people feel like they were at a loss,” Barredo said of the cathedral’s volunteers, noting that the Cathedral Kitchen, which provides to-go meals for more than 100 people five days a week, was closed for almost two months during 2020.

“They’re trying to find different ways to feel helpful.”