“I don’t feed the homeless,” says Mama Cat. “I fellowship with my unhoused family.”
This perspective informs everything we do at PotBangerz, where the cleanliness standards in the kitchen are first rate and the care that goes into prepping, cooking, packaging and distributing meals is of a similarly high standard. Mama Cat conceives of the meals we serve every Thursday evening with an eye for substance, balance, variety, taste and nutrition. Several hours in the afternoon go into a PotBangerz Thursday night in the streets.
One Thursday we were serving Sarah, an unhoused young woman we often see, when Derek sang a bit of Hall & Oates’ “Sarah Smile” to her and Mama Cat joined in.
We were standing in a light rain one night in front of Biddle when Alvin, one of the men we served, wanted to say thank you through song. And so he sang gospel for us with such grace, melody and power that I really couldn’t tell you whether that was rainwater I saw on everyone’s faces or tears.
I have seen men grab a meal and a snack bag and walk on without a word – and then come back a few minutes later wanting to give Mama Cat a hug because the food was the best they’d eaten in a long while.
Not everybody expresses thanks. Some people seem vacant. Maybe it’s drugs or maybe life has delivered an especially comprehensive beat-down lately and their spirits are at a low ebb. But no matter what somebody’s demeanor may be, whenever we pull up in our caravan, as soon as she gets out of the car Mama Cat says, “Hello fam!”
Food is the essential element in the PotBangerz mission but a lot more comes with it. Socks, gloves, hygiene kits, hugs. A listening ear. Sage counsel. And sometimes direct connections to services. One seriously cold night this winter we met an unhoused woman on the street near Mangoes Fish & Chicken. In a minute, Mama Cat was on the phone. And then she sat with the young woman in her car with the heat running while she ate her food and waited for Winter Outreach to pick her up and take her to a shelter.
Yes, it’s personal at PotBangerz, where fellowship is a verb.