By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Last month, the Iowa City Catholic Worker community began serving meals at their house of hospitality on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons, closing a critical gap in area services to the poorest of the poor.
“There used to be a saying that Sundays were the worst day to be homeless in Iowa City. Not anymore,” said David Goodner, co-founder of the Iowa City Catholic Worker and a live-in volunteer.
In Iowa City, the Salvation Army serves dinner during the week, but not on the weekends, and Iowa City’s Free Lunch Program takes Sundays off, Goodner explained.
“We saw a real need in town and are doing our best to meet it,” said Emily Sinnwell, co-founder of the Iowa City Catholic Worker.
The Catholic Worker House is a private home that has offered overnight hospitality to those in need since August. The community has six guest beds in its 3,000-square-foot Victorian home, located at 1414 Sycamore St. on the city’s southeast side. Guests can stay for up to 30 days.
People who come for the meal get more than just food, Sinnwell said. Since opening the doors for the food program, “we have seen about a dozen people come in each weekend day for a home-cooked meal, coffee, showers, socks and company.” Some weekends, the numbers are higher.
Goodner said most of the people who come in on the weekends are homeless or living at the city’s homeless shelter. Most are single men, but women also come in. Some people stick around just long enough to eat, while others hang out for several hours and enjoy the safe space and company.
Supporters and donors buy the food and other items. To date, everything has been cooked in-house. Sinnwell has made dishes including tacos, homemade macaroni and cheese, loose-meat sandwiches and brunch items.
Offering this weekend program has been a goal from the beginning, Goodner said. “We are called to serve the least of our brothers and sisters and see Christ in the stranger on our doorstep. Man cannot live on bread alone so we feed people, but what we really offer is a safe place where they feel welcome and are treated with respect and dignity.”
The next step for the Catholic Worker is to organize volunteer groups to help cook and serve the meals. Two April meals have already been spoken for, one from a family and another from a confirmation class.
Based on the number of people who have benefitted from Catholic Worker’s hospitality, Goodner said it’s become clear that people really needed a place to go on the weekends for a hot meal and hospitality. “We’re happy we can provide this option.”
Happy anniversary, IC Catholic Worker!
The Iowa City Catholic Worker will celebrate its one-year anniversary with a “Feast of St. Joseph the Worker” benefit dinner and concert on Sunday, April 30, from 4-6 p.m. at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. For more information about the benefit or the weekend meal program, call (319) 499-8929.