Make us your home page
Instagram

Cafe that feeds the homeless loses South Tampa location

TAMPA — A longtime volunteer sat at the door of the Faith Café and stopped homeless guests as they were rushing out into the blistering sun after lunch.

"Just a minute," Clyde Barr said.

Like a school mom stopping her children from running to catch a bus, he handed them a bologna sandwich in a paper bag.

In South Tampa, a place where the cries for last year's panhandling restrictions sounded the loudest, the Faith Café is one of the few places where homeless people are welcomed, fed, even mothered.

But that ends today when the café moves, leaving a permanent void for the hungry.

"I think it's really heartbreaking," said volunteer Kerimarie Cordero, 23. "These people have come here for years and it's being dismissed as unimportant."

The café began when Palma Ceia Presbyterian, Christ the King Catholic, St. Mary's Episcopal and Good Shepherd Lutheran approached property owner James Mikes about opening a soup kitchen at 3702 W Kennedy Blvd. For 11 years or so he obliged, letting the café operate rent-free to serve lunches six times a week in a beat-up recreation hall.

But this year, Mikes is pushing forward with plans to develop the 10 lots the café sits on. He hopes to break ground within 90 days on a complex that will include lofts, Cevíche, BurgerFi, Tijuana Flats and Brass Tap.

Neighbors had complained about homeless people loitering, sleeping on the property and sometimes leering at women, he said.

"It isn't monitored as much as it should be," said Mikes, whose law office sits behind the Faith Café. "It's just time. For everything, there's a season for it and the season has passed."

The decision forced the café to expedite its plans to build a 2,600-square-foot permanent home north of Kennedy Boulevard at 1340 Clearview Ave.

The $300,000 project has all the permits it needs, Faith Café board president Aubrey Smith said, but has raised less than half of what's needed in donations and construction supplies.

Meanwhile, the soup kitchen has searched unsuccessfully for a temporary home in South Tampa.

The café operates on an annual budget of about $17,000 and relies entirely on volunteers and Metropolitan Ministries, which provides the meals.

"Everyone wants the homeless fed," Smith said, "but they don't want them fed anywhere near around them."

First Presbyterian Church downtown is considering letting the café operate there, but Smith said nothing has been finalized. Still, volunteers at the café have been telling guests to ride a bus or bike there beginning next week.

"Honey, I love you," Melissa Hall, 61, said while hugging a guest wearing headphones. "We'll be downtown."

With a towel over her shoulder and a tie-dyed apron around her waist, she wept thinking about "Billy" and "Ray from New York" and her other favorites, wondering how they'll be able to eat.

Nearby, her husband, retired Hillsborough County sheriff's Maj. Tom Hall, served meals to men he may have helped confine when he ran the Falkenburg Road Jail.

Coming up the aisle, another volunteer poured ice-cold glasses of water and pink lemonade, his gray shirt soaked with sweat.

The small hall relies on a giant fan for air circulation. Its linoleum is rust-colored and worn. But guests notice the little touches of dignity volunteers provide, like the linen tablecloths and table settings with fake flowers.

"This place means a lot to me," said Luis Rosario, 21. "Without it, I'd be starving. They've been so kind so much."

All around him, trays of bagels, doughnuts, muffins and cookies were free for the taking. The kitchen passed out plates of Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and bowls of chunky beef vegetable stew.

"You can get as much as you want, eat as much as you want," said guest Johnnie Cawthon, 44. "It's all about having a loving heart."

Volunteer Melissa Hall hopes someone in the community will step up with that, as the Faith Café looks to nail down a temporary home.

"Where is the compassion?" she asked.

Justin George can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3368.

How to help

The Faith Café seeks donations for its permanent facility, which can be arranged through Burk Clark of the Sinclair Group Construction Services at (813) 259-9090. The cafe can be reached at faithcafetampa.com or (813) 348-0497.

>>

How to help

The Faith Café seeks donations for its permanent facility, which can be arranged through Burk Clark of the Sinclair Group Construction Services at (813) 259-9090. The café can be reached at faithcafetampa.com or (813) 348-0497.

Cafe that feeds the homeless loses South Tampa location 07/27/12 [Last modified: Sunday, July 29, 2012 12:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  2. New York town approves Legoland proposal

    News

    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  3. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Coming soon at two Tampa Bay area hospitals: a cancer treatment that could replace chemo

    Health

    A new cancer treatment that could eventually replace chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants — along with their debilitating side effects — soon will be offered at two of Tampa Bay's top-tier hospitals.

    Dr. Frederick Locke at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa is a principal investigator for an experimental therapy that retrains white blood cells in the body's immune system to fight cancer cells. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved these so-called "CAR-T" treatments for adults this month. In trials, 82 percent of cases responded well to the treatment, and 44 percent are still in remission at least eight months later, Locke said. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Regulator blasts Wells Fargo for deceptive auto insurance program

    Banking

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images, 2017]