Downtown Daily Bread (DDB) is a soup kitchen located in the Boyd Building of The Pine Street Presbyterian Church in downtown Harrisburg. It provides hot, nutritious meals for the needy and the homeless of the city. The meals are served daily between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. The soup kitchen was opened in March of 1983 out of concern for local hunger needs. There is no cost to the recipient and no questions are asked.
In recent years, DDB has grown to include a wide range of services for the poor. This program is called “Lunch Plus.” The Lunch Plus component of the kitchen offers phone, mail service, and lockers as well as clothing for men and women. Showers are also available and haircuts are offered monthly. There is no charge for these services. In addition, a counselor is present to help clients access DDB services and the services of other social agencies. DDB has collaborations in place with many organizations in the area. An employment counselor from the YWCA meets with DDB clients once per week to help them work on resumes and work toward employment goals. A mental health professional from Dauphin County Mental Health serves as a homeless outreach professional at DDB one day a week.
In addition, student nurses from Messiah College and Harrisburg Area Community College as well as Hershey Medical Center students help. DDB also collaborates with Aids Community Alliance, and The Veterans Administration. A collaboration was formed with the Dauphin County Bar Association and Homeless Outreach Services. With this program, attorneys volunteer their time once a week to answer legal questions for DDB clients and help them understand legal issues. All of these collaborative services are available to clients before or after lunch. In acknowledgement of these collaboration efforts, DDB was awarded the 2003 Non-Profit Innovation Award in the area of Collaboration by the “Central Penn Business Journal.”
One direct outcome of the “Lunch Plus” program and the shower usage is that the program puts the homeless clients and at risk individuals in touch with the DDB counselor. The DDB counselor performs an intake on every client who comes to DDB in search of services other than meals. He is responsible for documenting the use of the “Lunch Plus” program and the shower usage, in particular. The counselor is available to speak with clients, get to know them, and develop a sense of trust with them. Developing a relationship with clients is the first step to getting the homeless off of the streets.
Once a level of trust has been established, the client may feel comfortable being referred to a mental health caseworker, an employment counselor or housing specialist. The DDB counselor can also put the client in touch with other human and social service agencies in the community. This is the process that helps an individual to get back on his feet. The next step is to find housing or employment or both which will enable client to reintegrate back into the community and start on his way to self –sufficiency. This is the ultimate outcome of the DDB program.
Mental Health Outreach
In December, 2011, DDB formed a collaboration with Dauphin County Mental Health and a federal grant enabling DDB to hire a Street Outreach Coordinator and Mental Health Caseworker. This position serves to ‘bridge the gap’ between DDB and the Dauphin County Case Management Unit, which serves those Dauphin County residents with a mental health diagnosis. The caseworker utilizes outreach as a major method to reach out to homeless individuals, particularly those with underlying mental health issues. These individuals typically do not utilize available services to meet their needs, and therefore, outreach efforts include walking throughout the Harrisburg community in an attempt to make contact with homeless individuals.
Downtown Daily Bread is open to all individuals seeking a variety of services. As relationships evolve with clients and counselors and a sense of trust is established, additional referrals may be made for other services including the Case Management Unit and mental health counseling providers. The mental health counselor also works with individuals already receiving services from DDB as well as those who do not come to DDB but who may be identified with, or seeking evaluation for a mental health diagnosis.
In the end, our success can be evaluated through a variety of measures, hopefully ending with a sense of reestablishing contact with family and society.