One of Lubbock’s two daily-serving soup kitchens in the downtown area is in search of a new home.
Chaplain Ivan Ponce de Leon said an increase in the number of guests has caused St. Benedict’s Chapel to outgrow its current location.
“We can seat 48 people at once, but that creates a lot of chaos outside,” he said. “If we could have a bigger place, where we can have an area where people can wait and have some coffee and talk, that would help a whole lot.”
St. Benedict’s moved from its original building on Main Street to its current location on Broadway in 2009.
Prior to opening their doors in 2007, Father Barry Ferguson, chapel founder, fed the hungry out of the trunk of his car.
Norma Valdez, a chapel volunteer, said there are many challenges to serving meals to over 100 guests at a time in such a small space.
“We can only hold 50 people at a time,” she said. “Only 50 people can sit down and eat and the other 50 or so have to wait outside until people start to get up and move.”
Ponce de Leon said neighboring businesses have complained about people standing in front of their entryways, but the situation has not caused any major problems.
Before moving out, the neighboring tattoo shop placed “No loitering” signs on its doors.
Employees McClendon Law Firm, which is located next to St. Benedict’s, declined to comment on the lines at the chapel.
Cole Blackwood, a chapel food service supervisor, said St. Benedict’s and Carpenter’s Church work as a team to feed the hungry in the downtown area.
“We serve at different times, so they can come here for breakfast and they can go up there to get some lunch,” he said.
Chad Wheeler, executive minister of Carpenter’s Church, said the two soup kitchens act as emergency rooms for the hungry by providing for the immediate food needs of their guests.
The loss of one of the handful of places that regularly offer free meals in downtown Lubbock would disrupt the lives of many people, Wheeler said.
“It would have a significant impact on the community because a lot of people depend on that meal every day,” he said. “So, it would be a big deal.”
The chapel has explored the idea of moving for over a year now, looking for a solution that is both affordable and nondisruptive for the homeless community.
Ponce de Leon said the chapel’s needs are simple: a basic kitchen and a large dining area for guests.
“We’ve looked at a couple of buildings here,” he said. “We just don’t have the funds to do it, that’s the problem. There’s a lot of buildings downtown, nobody is using them, that we could use. That’s the frustrating part.”