Homeless but not Hopeless: Albuquerque, NM
For the past fifteen years, members of the Sri Sathya Sai Group of Albuquerque have been serving hot vegetarian meals to 150-200 homeless men, women and children in the Albuquerque area, working in collaboration with HopeWorks, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to ending homelessness. Members of the Sai Group work alongside volunteers of various faiths to prepare and serve nutritious and delicious food such as cilantro rice, cooked vegetables, organic green salad, beans and dessert. All volunteers lovingly serve the meal in person and, in return, receive smiles and words of gratitude from the happy recipients. Along with the delicious meal, they also distribute personal hygiene items like toiletries, infant supplies, scarfs, and gloves. With the advent of the pandemic, however, volunteers are no longer allowed to serve in person. Instead, every other month, they donate and drop off ingredients and other resources for meal preparation at the HopeWorks site.
While participating at Hopeworks, Sai volunteers came across other service opportunities in the surrounding area. In 2017, this small band of nine dedicated Sai volunteers also began to prepare and distribute about 100 sack meals with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, homemade cookies and bottles of water to the homeless at a nearby park. However, in the fall of 2019, the city began to clear out the park due to increased drug activities in the area. It became unsafe for the volunteers to continue serving there. It also became unsafe for homeless families and the disabled, who were encouraged to seek help at the SteelBridge Ministries located close by. From there, they could catch a bus to a large housing facility for the night. However, they would end up missing their evening meal. Seeing an opportunity to serve, Sai volunteers began to directly deliver about 30 sack meals at the SteelBridge Ministries twice a week, so that the homeless could get something to eat before they boarded the bus.
A volunteer expressed, “Participating in this service is truly a gift from God. The joy you feel when you see hope shining through the eyes of the receiver, when you feed them or give them a much-needed care package of personal items, is indescribable.” Another volunteer added, “The most memorable times for me have been when I was serving at HopeWorks or at the park, when I felt God's presence unexpectedly in difficult circumstances. When a person is struggling to find shelter or find food to curb their hunger, it is hard for them to be in a good mood. They are hurting and in pain, both physically and psychologically. With God’s Grace and the warm embrace of our love, their hearts are soothed as they receive and accept our gifts of nourishment and renewal.”