There’s a lot of good happening at St. Francis Xavier Center in Worcester, and some of it is invisible.
The center’s St. John’s Food for the Poor program “prevents homelessness as much as it feeds the homeless,” said the Rev. John Madden, pastor of St. John’s Catholic Church.
Father Madden’s parish started the program about 12 years ago. From 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. every Monday through Friday, volunteers at the St. Francis Xavier Center feed about 500 to 700 hungry people.
For most people, having a warm meal and food to last through the day is a given. However, for an ever increasing number of Worcester residents, hunger would be an everyday reality if it were not for St. John’s Food for the Poor.
The program provides meals for the homeless, the unemployed, those on fixed incomes, and the working poor. Without the food, clothes, toiletries, services and sense of community St. John’s provides, many of the individuals who eat at the center would not be able to afford their housing or obtain nourishment. By saving the little money they have on not buying food, individuals and families are able to afford their housing or rent. This, Father Madden says, is how more homelessness is prevented.
His church, at 44 Temple St., realized there was a need for providing meals in the mornings, since most soup kitchens and shelters only provide lunch and dinner. Started in St. John’s basement, the Food for the Poor program gradually grew in terms of services, clientele and staff, which led to the construction and recent expansion of the Xavier Center at 20 Temple St.