Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond aims to provide more than holiday dinner for unhoused

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Tuesday, December 26, 2023
Richmond nonprofit aims to provide more than holiday dinner
Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond aims to provide more than holiday dinners to the unhoused population that it serves.

RICHMOND, Calif. (KGO) -- As people lined up for Christmas dinner at the Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond, behind the scenes, cook Comfort Mensah made sure to capture the holiday flavor.

"It is the holidays, Christmas. So we make sure everybody eats some ham, some yams, corn, mashed potatoes, gravy, pie and salad," Mensah said.

She knows how important this meal can be for those who are struggling. A few years ago, she was in line for food. And she says it isn't just about the meal. It is also about a sense of belonging and being seen.

"Very, very important. Very important. Because you have the ones going into (depression), confused and don't have no family. So, when you come here, we (are) all family, together. There is no separation. So that makes it wonderful," she said.

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David Smith, better known as "Pastor Dave," has been working with the homeless population for more than three decades. He is now vice president of Programs at the mission.

"I think people have a misconception of the homeless population. I think a lot of people in the Bay Area are one paycheck away from homelessness," Smith said.

He says a lot has changed in terms of demographics in recent years.

"Ten years ago it was people ages 45 to 60. Now you're seeing men and women in their early 20s. In our program, we have 19 and 20-year-olds. We are seeing a lot of young mothers," he said.

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Smith says at Bay Area Rescue Mission, they don't just believe in handouts. But instead, what he calls "handups." They offer more than just food and shelter. Their year-long vocational programs help people get off the streets and on their feet. Mensah is a graduate of the culinary arts program.

"I am so grateful they have a program like this in Richmond to be able to help individuals," she said.

But Monday, the focus was Christmas and community.

"It is nice to share a meal, and it is nice to share a meal in good company," said Lisa, who came to join in that community.

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