Sleet falls in Ann Morrison Park on a recent Sunday afternoon. A few people mill around picnic tables, shivering.
Denie Tackett hauls boxes and bags of food from her car.
Tackett heads up Mosaic Street Ministry, a non-profit group that ministers to the homeless in Boise. She’s been bringing food to local parks for the last five years.
It all started after she lost her job at Micron. “You know, you’re driving around town and you’re looking for a job and it was like…not to sound religious, but God starts to open up your eyes to people that are worse off than you are and then He called me to the park. He says I want you to make sandwiches and go to the park.”
So she made some baloney sandwiches, went to Julia Davis, and started talking to people. Now Tackett and her volunteers bring an entire Sunday meal to Ann Morrison Park every week. “I look at this as not coming down to feed the homeless, we’re coming down to have a family picnic with our friends.”
Tackett’s friends unload baked chicken, green beans, a giant bowl of lettuce and tomatoes, and hot chocolate. There’s even a dessert table with pumpkin pie and brownies. Tackett’s volunteers huddle in a circle, holding hands.
“Lord we know that not all of them have a place to stay," one volunteer prays. "We just ask you take care of them, keep them alive, keep them safe, in Jesus holy name we pray, Amen. Amen.”
Mosiac Street Ministry doesn’t promote any specific church or denomination. But they will talk about God with anyone who’s interested. “You can’t speak good things into someone’s life, if they’re standing there hungry in front of you, if all they’re concerned about is being hungry and once you fill their belly, then you have the opportunity to speak to their heart.”
Tackett calls the homeless she feeds “her family.”
At one of the tables, a woman is bundled in a red and black coat. This is Debbie. She knows every place in town that has free food. “The first food available is at one o’clock at ROL and then theres the Bum-B-Que over at Julia Davis, it’s always hamburgers and hot dogs, put on by Vineyards, so that’s at two…” But Sunday mornings, she says, “Sunday mornings, other than the fourth Sunday morning, there’s, like, no food anywhere.”
Debbie has two little girls in tow, also bundled up. Both girls shiver as they gulp down their food. Debbie holds a tiny hand warmer packet to one girl’s cheek. She says they don’t always come to Tackett’s free meal. “It’s an awful long way to go, if you like hanging out at the library, cause that’s pretty much the only place on Sunday to go that’s warm.”
Tackett says some of the people she feeds are homeless. Others have a place to stay, but come for a free meal when their food stamps run out. She puts together a to-go box for Debbie and her daughters. “Each and every one of them out here, they come with their problems, but we look past their problems and we love just right where they’re at, we love them for being them.”
Every year, some of the homeless in Boise die on the street. Tackett says she knew some of the ten people who died this year and she gets choked up when she talks about them. “Yeah, yeah I did. And even recently, um…sorry…they’re my friends.”
Tonight, Denie Tackett will take part in a memorial vigil for the homeless who have died in Boise. She says for some, this will be the only ceremony they’ll have. “There not just a homeless person on the street, they’re a human being that had a mother, father, they might have children and they need to be remembered just like everybody else.”
The three families that make up the core of Mosaic Street Ministry will provide the food for the memorial. On Sunday, they’ll be outside again, in the park, for their weekly “family picnic” to feed anyone who comes by.
Tonight's Homeless Person's Memorial Day Vigil starts at 7:00 p.m. at Interfaith Sanctuary in Boise. The service is open to the public and will be followed by a gathering with food at the Corpus Christi Day Shelter.
Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio