"A way to give back": Eugene Police revive tradition of serving holiday meals to the unhoused
Members of the Eugene Police Department wore Santa hats and aprons Tuesday afternoon to host a holiday meal for people at St. Vincent de Paul’s Lindholm Center in west Eugene.
At noon, EPD and St. Vinnie’s staff start serving up plates of turkey with stuffing and all the trimmings. The center is warm, there’s live music and round tables filled with people like Daniel Irving. He’s been homeless in Eugene for 20 years.
“It’s nice and the music’s good and a lot to eat,” Irving smiled. He said he's about to have a birthday. He'll turn 65 on December 15, 2022.
This is the 6th year the EPD and other community partners have thrown the holiday dinner. There was a two-year stoppage for the pandemic. Organizer Dave Clark has been a patrol officer on this side of town for 12 years.
“Everything that St. Vinnie’s does for people in need in this area—this our way to give back and help the staff out for a day,” Clark said, “and then be a friendly face for the clients that we see all the time, sometimes for traumatic sort of instances. And just have it be a laid-back day that we could have some music, some good food and just enjoy.”
Clark added they prepared enough food to serve 250 holiday meals. What isn’t eaten for lunch will be packaged and shared for dinners tonight at shelters and Egan Warming Centers.
“This will give folks one big meal then they’ll go back to, --you know--could be the railroad tracks or underneath awnings. This is just to have their bellies full and warm for the night,” he said.
Casondra Johnson has been homeless in Eugene since she arrived five months ago. She currently stays in the Dawn to Dawn shelter operated by St. Vincent de Paul. She walked over to eat a holiday meal here at the Eugene Service Station and said she thinks it’s amazing that police take the time to do this for the homeless community.
“To me it just shows that they have compassion by trying to help anyway they can,” she said.
Every man and woman sitting in this day center has a story. After Johnson ate her tray of turkey, caramelized carrots, mashed potatoes with gravy, rolls and pie, she shared a little about her life. Homelessness, she said, has been a direct result of grief.
“I came from Texas after my son passed away when he was 29 and so I’m just trying to get myself together with that. I just had to go after he passed and that brought me here,” she said.
“I don’t know a soul,” 48 year-old Johnson admitted. “It’s rough around here to trust anyone- but the few people I know try to support me. The staff here (at Lindholm Center) is amazing. I love them to death.”
Food for the EPD Holiday Dinner was donated by longtime supporter Bruns Apple Market and the rolls and turkeys were cooked by New Day Bakery. EPD’s Sarah Power and Ekklesia Church provided the homemade pies. Several staff made all of the caramelized carrots for the meal. The Eugene Police Foundation provided funds for food items.
Music by The Holiday Katz filled the room with cheer.