Groups give warm meals, helping hand to homeless living under Kennedy Expressway
Several volunteers gathered Thursday to distribute food, water, protective equipment, sanitary items and other supplies.
The smell of fresh Middle Eastern cuisine wafted through the air below the Kennedy Expressway Thursday, past a row of tents, lines of cars and several members of local community groups who came out to lend a hand to the area’s homeless.
Georgia Doty Comprehensive Health and Zakat Foundation of America, teamed up to bring the warm meal, as well as groceries, sanitary products and PPE to those who live under the overpass near West Fullerton Avenue in Bucktown.
Don Doty, president and CEO of Georgia Doty Comprehensive Health, which works to provide health awareness and education, said as a disabled veteran, he is committed to providing essential resources and services to underserved populations.
He said the event marked the first of many his group has planned this year.
Claudia Martinez, program manager at Zakat Foundation of America, said during Ramadan it provides fresh meals to the homeless every week in different locations. The group appeals to Muslims who look to give back during this time of fasting.
“Our campaign is, ‘Feel the hunger to do good,’” Martinez said. “ ... It’s important for us to be in our city and involved.”
The foundation handed out meals from Al Bawadi Grill, which has locations in Niles and Bridgeview.
Georgia Doty’s chief operating officer Beverly Walker said it was important for her organization to get involved because COVID-19 has “caused a lot of devastation in the community” and led to rising unemployment.
“We thought we would start small, come out and help these smaller areas where the people are in tents, and then move on once we can build our revenue and help larger areas and more people in the community,” Walker said.
At the event, volunteers gave out canned goods, water, rescue blankets and care kits with disposable gloves, hand sanitizer, masks, soap, washcloths and toothpaste.
Because the homeless are at greater risk for adverse health conditions like COVID-19, Doty said his organization partnered with Loretto Hospital to provide general health screenings and COVID-19 tests. However, no residents wanted to leave their tents take part in the screenings.
Albert Alexander, of the Chicago-based organization A Special Place for Veterans, also was there Thursday. He said the group’s holistic human health program works to house veterans, get them back into the workforce and feed the homeless, among other things.
“I [want] people to know that people still care, and that even though this is only a little bit, we’re still willing to do it as often as we can,” Alexander said.
Julio Mendoza, a Mexican immigrant who has been in the U.S. for 33 years, was one of the people served Thursday. He was grateful for the organizations and their services, which have been like “blessings from God.”
Mendoza became homeless after he had to get part of his foot amputated and was no longer able to work or pay rent.
He said due to COVID-19, he is unable to stay at a homeless shelter and he has no family to live with. But he still hopes to get a job so he can support himself.
That’s the long-term goal, Doty said: to help those who are homeless find employment or another way to earn a living.