The number of men staying in the overnight homeless shelter is about the same as last year, according to Bonnie Toombs, but the number staying in a nearby women’s shelter is up about 20 percent.
“I’m not sure why,” Toombs said. “The reasons are probably as different as each of the women seeking shelter.”
What stays the same every year is the need to feed those in the shelters.
The Diocese of Wichita’s Warming Souls ministry works with Interfaith Ministries to look after the men and women who stay in the shelter from Jan. 1 through March 31, usually the coldest months of the year. Interfaith manages the Emergency Winter Shelter, located at 841 N. Market in Wichita, and the women’s shelter across the street at Villa Courts.
Toombs, director of the diocesan Respect Life and Social Justice Office, said last week that they were seeing from 95 to 110 men and 20 to 25 women nightly.
Although the shelters are staffed, she said, parishes and Knights of Columbus councils – and some families – are feeding the men and women seeking a warm place to sleep.
The women are served dinner at The Lord’s Diner and breakfast and lunches are provided by volunteers.
Because of the greater number of men, providing meals for them is more of a challenge.
“It’s really important to give them a hot meal before they go out into the cold weather,” she said.
“What we try to do is provide three meals a day for the men,” Toombs said. “So they get a breakfast at the shelter, they get a lunch to take out when they leave in the morning, and then they get a hot dinner in the evening.”
Some Catholic schools and Girl and Boy Scout troops have demonstrated their stewardship by collecting foodstuff for sack lunches, assembling the lunches, and delivering them to the shelter.
“Right now we have a large number of parishes helping, but we still have about six or seven days at the end of March that we need to fill for dinner,” she said.
Although The Lord’s Diner is just a few blocks away, the ministries are distinct.
“The men at the shelter, they’re not going anywhere, they’re there for the evening. So, you have a much greater opportunity to visit with them and learn their stories,” she said.
“It’s important for them to be able to tell their stories. It helps them recognize that there are people out who really care for them. We’re telling them that, we as the Catholic Church, we haven’t forgotten about them. We don’t just drive past them or walk past them, we’re trying to help as much as we can.”

Want to warm a tummy and a soul?
There are about seven open dates to serve dinner at the men’s homeless shelter at the end of this month. Parishes, Knights of Columbus, or other groups or families who might wish to feed the homeless on one of the evenings may contact Bonnie Toombs at toombsb@CatholicDioceseOfWichita.org or at 316-269-3935.