A Cardboard House?

Dear Friends of Emmaus,

the homeless man
takes off his shoes before
his cardboard house
--Penny Harter

This poem is about dignity. Human dignity. Here the homeless person keeps his sense of worth and honors the place where he lives, albeit a cardboard house.

At the soup kitchen, we try to replicate the spirit of this poem. We want our kitchen to be a sacred space where hungry, homeless, and hurting people find a home.

That’s why we deliberated so long to rebuild the kitchen that was severely damaged by fire over a year ago. We had many options – build a new soup kitchen, relocate to a different neighborhood, or reimagine our present space. We chose to stay put and make our “cardboard house” more inviting, more functional, and more beautiful.

Why? Because this is who Emmaus is. We are small. We are intimate. We are family. When she first saw the soup kitchen renovations, Debbie Shoup, a long-time volunteer, said to me, “I’m so grateful you didn’t tear down this building. By keeping this place, you kept the heart and the soul of Emmaus.”

But the physical structure of Emmaus is only a small part of our story. What takes place inside the walls of the building is what makes it a home. That’s why we are running excerpts from “Soup’s On: an Emmaus Journal” kept by our newest staff member, Breanna Mekuly. Her observations and insights are fresh so we’ll let you judge whether the soup kitchen you so generously support is a “cardboard house” for the poor and hungry of Erie. Do we treat people with enough dignity that it becomes a sacred space for them, a place where they might remove their shoes before entering?

Read this and more in the February 2017 issue of The Companion, the newsletter of Emmaus Ministries. It is available online for your viewing pleasure. Check out The Companion.