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Homeless Feeding Program Affected by Inauguration

By Mayowa Fageyinbo, Howard University News Service
On January 20, 2017

When people think about the many closures and changes the inauguration for the 45th president of the United States Donald Trump caused over this past week, many will think about roads, travelers and businesses. However, one unforeseen population impacted are the homeless of Washington D.C.

A mobile food service that feeds the homeless population in D.C., McKenna’s Wagon, has been unable to serve meals since Wednesday and will not until Sunday.

A homeless man in Washington DC. Photo by Wikicommons/Vysotsky

A homeless man in Washington D.C. Photo by Wikicommons/Vysotsky

McKenna’s Wagon, which is operated by nonprofit organization Martha’s Table, normally serves 150-250 meals every day to the homeless population in Washington, D.C.  and does this every day of the year.

These efforts are crucial, as Washington, D.C. is home to over 8,000 homeless persons, one of the highest populations in the country.

McKenna’s Wagon has not missed too many days in 35 years; however, with roads closing due to inauguration activities, their service remains disrupted.

Anna Hartman, Martha’s Table volunteer coordinator, believes the public tension surrounding Donald Trump’s election victory is a reason for the blockages, adding that “the amount of protests and the unprecedented nature of this inauguration [is why] they have a lot more security measures up. And they didn’t release [these measures] very far in advance.”

McKenna’s Wagon prides itself on getting meals to it’s clients regardless of what’s going on.

“Our organization does pretty good of making sure that we consistently serve as many people as possible,” said Kara Richie, Martha’s Table outreach manager.

“McKenna’s Wagon goes out every day of the year rain or shine, and we know that people are depending on us. This is the first time in the two years I’ve been here that we’ve had to make even the smallest adjustments to the locations or time.”

Mckenna’s Wagon volunteers deliver meals at three downtown locations at H and 2nd St, 19th and Pennsylvania Avenue, and McPherson Square Park.

“We’ve never missed a day,” said Hartman.

“Even during that snow storm we had last March, our staff actually slept here that night to make sure that the vans went out.”

However, due to higher security for this year’s inauguration, the staff and volunteers cannot serve any of their three locations.

“There’s no way for us to be [at our normal locations], so we’re doing everything in our power to make sure our normal guests have the food they need to last them,” Hartman said.

“We’re giving out double portions and we’re sending out food to the big shelters. We’re trying to [give] non-perishables… so that people have stuff that’s going to last them the next couple days.”

Volunteers handed out flyers during the week, saying that no food will be served this weekend and directing them toward local shelters. “It’s hard for the [people depending on us],” said Lorie Palmer, a volunteer with Martha’s Table for 26 years. “But it’s only a few days…. This has never happened before.”

“We communicated early that there would be a couple adjustments to McKenna’s Wagon’s service,” said Richie, “We’re very cognizant of looping back with people to make sure they know what’s going on.”

Martha’s Table, located at 2114 14th St, is also extending its dining hours until 5 pm this weekend, hoping that people can get to them.  “It’s a mess,” said Hartman, “It is a royal mess.”

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