Haystacks for the Homeless

by Kathy Marson

Haystacks, served the first Tuesday of the month at Volunteers of America's Crosswalk, has been a favorite meal for 20 years.

Spokane, Wash., April 4, 2013 - For more than 20 years, the first Tuesday of each month finds a handful of Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) office workers chopping lettuce, onions, tomatoes and cooking beans. They load up the haystack fixings and drive into downtown Spokane to feed the homeless kids in Spokane Wash., at the Volunteers of America’s Crosswalk Teen Shelter.

The population of homeless youth in Spokane County as well as Washington State has continued to rise. Back in the early 1990s conference staff fed 12 to 20 youth. Now the count is from 30 to 40 and in years past close to100 homeless youth were fed. “It breaks my heart that children in my community are homeless and hungry,” says Michelle Stanfill, marketing coordinator for Positive Life Radio, “It’s very hard to be complaining about your day when you go down there and see what kind of day they are forced to deal with."

Yvonne House who is turning over the monthly Haystack ministry to Stanfill says, “They tell us that this is the best meal that they have and sometimes they come through the food line two or three times.”  House has been in charge of the monthly meal for six years and is retiring this month.  She says, “It is satisfying to see the kids and get to know them. They know we are Seventh-day Adventists and some of the kids tell us they were raised Adventist."

According to Washington’s office of Superintendent of Public Instruction OSPI, the number of homeless students in the state has risen from 19,000 in 2007 to over 27,000 in 2012. Homeless students are given the same access to education as other students and the state receives nearly a million dollars per year from the federal government to help homeless students. But that amount does not completely address their basic needs of a place to sleep and food to eat.

Crosswalk is able to provide a place to sleep, and through generous people, businesses and ministries such as UCC they provide three meals a day. They offer a GED or a high school education for youth ages 13-17. Founded in 1985 they serve more than 1000 youth each year. Their emergency shelter is available 365 days a year and all services are free to the youth.