Dorothy’s Place looks to expand.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Dorothy’s Place already feeds Salinas’ hungry indigent population, and gives the city’s homeless a place to take a shower, do their laundry or receive medical attention at its weekly free medical clinic. But Director Robert Smith says that’s not enough.
Sitting in an office during the soup kitchen’s lunch hour on a recent Friday afternoon, Smith, who calls the people he serves “guests,” describes an idea.
“I’m not happy with our limitations,” he says. “Our guests say there are two things they need. ‘We need shelter,’ and ‘We need work.’ Everything else—food, laundry, the clinic—it’s good, it’s vital, but it doesn’t lift up or liberate.”
With the future of Dorothy’s Place in limbo, Smith’s got a plan that would provide the missing elements of survival to the hundreds of hungry and homeless people who frequent the building on Soledad Street. He envisions a redeveloped neighborhood that would include a community culture center, an artist- and writer-in-residence program, senior and low-income housing, a day care, a site for youth activities, a community garden and a culinary arts school.
On April 29 and 30, Smith and others will begin selling this vision to the public. The two days of events, co-sponsored by Dorothy’s Place and CSU Monterey Bay, will begin at 11:30am on April 29, and will include lunch and presentations by Rick Slone, a former Dorothy’s guest who is now a Buddhist priest, Salinas Mayor Anna Caballero, and Assemblyman Simon Salinas. There will also be tours, the presentation of revitalization ideas, and a 15-minute documentary called Neighborhood Forgotten by CSUMB student Katie Beckerson about the history of Soledad Street.
The next day, a Soledad Street beautification and block party kicks off at 9am. University students and community members will paint, clean, plant flowers and turn a vacant lot into a softball diamond. The block party will include music and a softball game.
“The beautification day is not just cosmetic,” says Pamela Motoike, CSUMB assistant professor of service learning. “It’s also about sparking hope—that change is possible.”
For the past eight years, CSUMB service-learning students have volunteered at Dorothy’s Place. Motoike says that the university is currently looking into applying for federal grants that could be used to revitalize Soledad Street.
The 23-year-old soup kitchen, run by members of the Franciscan Workers of Junipero Serra, served 105,000 meals last year, according to Smith. But it could close next year if the city and neighboring community can’t agree on a plan to revitalize Soledad Street, a rundown part of the city that’s lined with boarded-up bars and restaurants.
“We need to come up with a plan to convince our neighbors that the work we do here is important,” Smith says.
The building is owned by a nonprofit called Wheel of Hope, made up of Franciscan workers and members of the nearby Salinas Buddhist Temple.
Its lease runs out in December 2006.
Smith says he’s hoping his vision for a new Soledad Street, and this weekend’s events, will “instigate a riot of imagination.
“The discussion will not only be about the homeless and about the future of Soledad Street,” he continues, “But also about how do we accept or reject the poor in our midst?”