Empty Bowls is an important reminder of the persistent problems of food insecurity and homelessness some Juneauites experience on a daily basis, but for Glory Hole director Mariya Lovishchuk it’s also a powerful reminder of the fullness of heart and abundant goodwill that so many community members bring to the table in making the event happen.
“I think what’s cool about this — and I realize this more and more — in big part it’s about money, we need money, obviously, to operate, but the really great thing is that probably 600 people are involved in this,” she said, including ticket buyers, bowl makers, corporate funders, soup cookers, bread and cookie bakers, auction donors, sign makers and on it goes.
“It really gives pretty much everybody in the community the opportunity to help. And that’s the greatest part, all the goodwill and good energy that goes into it.”
Donations of bowls are up this year — more than 600 have been donated — with major suppliers being the UAS ceramics department, headed up by Jeremy Kane, and the Canvas Community Art Studio and Gallery. There are also more wooden bowls this year, created by local woodturners including Don Gotschall, Neil Slotnick and Kevin Miller. in addition to being tangible reminders of hunger and generosity, all of the bowls donated to the event are handmade, unique works of art.
Funds raised at the local event go to many different Glory Hole projects, including the current garden project (see story at left), as well as day-to-day expenses.
Lovishchuk said 2011 was a busy year for Juneau’s shelter and soup kitchen, with numbers remaining high into the spring.
“The meal numbers are up for sure,” she said. “2011 was way bigger than 2010 — (the number of meals provided) was in the high 40,000s in 2010, and it was over 52,000 meals in 2011. Food box numbers are also up, all the meal numbers are up — and I think that’s consistent with national averages.”
Also up, the figures for those seeking shelter at the Glory Hole.
“This winter there was about a 20 percent rise (in those seeking shelter) over last year,” Lovishchuk said, adding that the fastest growing groups are mothers with children and people over the age of 65.
According to the 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in June 2011, the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night in the U.S. in 2010 was about 650,000. The report also notes that “families represent a much larger share of the total sheltered population than ever before,” with the majority of those families consisting of a single mother with young children.
Juneau’s Empty Bowls event takes place from 5-7 p.m., today, April 22, at Centennial Hall. Ticket price of $30 includes soup, bread and cookies as well as the bowl of your choice. A silent auction will take place during the meal.
About 30 soups will be offered, with five of those varieties coming from the Glory Hole kitchen itself and the rest from local restaurants. Bread will be provided by Wild Oven, and cookies by local church congregations all over town.
The collaborative aspect of the event is mirrored in a larger way through the joint efforts local agencies are making to treat homelessness and hunger. Lovishchuk said inter-agency cooperation is stronger than ever.
“The Juneau Homeless Coalition partner agencies are collaborating, I think, more than they ever have, and relations between the agencies is really, really good right now -- and also between nonprofits and the larger community,” she said. “So I think I see the Glory Hole as part of this much larger network. We are just one part of this community network. And this event, to me, in seeing what everybody does, it’s not really the Glory Hole’s event, it’s a community event.”
Other ways you can help, from the Juneau Homeless Coalition’s website:
• Support minimum wage reform.
• Support housing vouchers.
• Donate to organizations that serve people experiencing homelessness.
• Support legislation that offers solutions to eliminate homelessness.
• Support solutions to solving the problems that contribute to homelessness.
• Donate blankets, sleeping bags, and cold weather outdoor clothing to The Glory Hole, St. Vincent de Paul, and Polaris House.
• Have a cup of coffee with patrons at The Glory Hole or Polaris House.
• Take time out of your day to talk with someone struggling with homelessness.
• Learn more about how brain injury, stroke, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, mental illness, addiction disorders and unexpected medical expenses can result in community members becoming homeless.
• Call your legislator and voice your support for funding in the FY11 state Mental Health budget for the Homeless Assistance Program.
• Become an advocate for community solutions.
• Request a copy of the Juneau Homeless Coalition’s plan “A Roof Over Every Head” or become a member of the coalition
• Call a shelter the next time you have a need for day labor.
• Assist in adult education at Southeast Regional Resource Center (SERRC).
• Volunteer to tutor an adult who needs help learning English or improving their reading, writing and math skills.
• Speak up for adequate public funding to house families and people with special needs.
• Advocate for supported housing that provides support systems to help those with special needs.
• Volunteer at a nonprofit organization that assists the homeless.
• Write a letter to your legislator or Assembly member supporting solutions for homelessness.