We’ve all seen them.  The men and women holding up hand-lettered signs, saying, “Homeless – need help.”  We look away or hand them a dollar.  We wonder if they are really homeless or if they’re pulling a scam.

Yesterday, my son came home from attending Mass at a friend’s church with an aluminum pan and a recipe.  In our area, churches participate in several cooperative programs to help the homeless.  One is cooking for Our Daily Bread, a Catholic Charities outreach program in Baltimore.  Each church has several days during the month where church members cook and serve pre-made casseroles at ODB’s facility downtown.  Of course, someone has to make and freeze all that food, and that’s where the aluminum pan comes into the story.

My daughter helped me shop and cook for two pans’ worth of hot dog casserole.  It was easy for her to slice up the hot dogs, mix spices and beans and soup, and help with cleanup.  As we cooked, we talked about whether homeless people really like hot dog casserole or chicken and broccoli casserole (the dish we usually cook during our parish’s ODB weeks).  I’m guessing that they do.

We had the chance to see the ODB building last November when we went to Mass at the Baltimore Basilica.  ODB’s building is right next door.  Long before the doors were scheduled to open, homeless people were lining up for that hot meal.  It was a cold November day, and I’m sure it wasn’t a comfortable wait.  Suddenly, the chicken and broccoli casserole connected with faces, with people who were too cold to return my smile, with people just like me who somehow ended up on the streets.

So, next time you see one of those signs, you still might not want to pass money out your window.  Don’t worry – there is something else you can do.  Find out who’s feeding the homeless, and give them some help.

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