Thursday, 17 February 2011 11:49
By Christopher M. Riggs
WICHITA – A foot of snow just outside Bonnie Toombs’ office window was beautifying the landscape around the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception as she talked last week about Warming Souls, a project to provide shelter for the homeless during the coldest periods of winter.
Toombs, director of the diocesan Respect Life and Social Justice Office, said this year will be the second year the diocese will have worked with Advocates to End Chronic Homelessness and Interfaith Ministries to temporarily house the men. The diocese will provide shelter for about 120 men from Feb. 24 to March 18 in the Cathedral gymnasium. Interfaith Ministries provides the administrative support.
Parishes in the Wichita area are more involved this year than last year, she said.
“Several parishes and groups will provide an evening meal,” Toombs said, “And some parishes will serve a warm breakfast or provide the food for a cold breakfast.”
A mound of peanut butter jars in a corner of her office is evidence of the response from youth programs that were asked to donate peanut butter, granola bars, and other lunch items for those seeking shelter at the Cathedral. “We have various groups including several youth groups that will be coming in to make sack lunches for the day,” she said.
Because of the response of parishes this year, Toombs added, The Lords Diner, located a half-block away, will not be as involved in the project this year as it was last year – although the Diner will provide sack lunches for some evenings. “By far the majority of the food will be brought in by the parish groups,” she said.
Several people have asked her why the diocese is providing an evening meal when the Diner is next door, she said.
“When the shelter fills up, people are turned away, so they can’t get in for the night. And once they’re in the shelter they have to stay – they can’t come and go. So they come and get their spot to make sure they have a warm place to stay. We don’t want them to have to choose between a warm place to sleep and a meal.”
“So that’s the reason the parishes are involved, the parishes can bring in a warm meal,” she said. “That gives us a chance as members of the Catholic community to reach out to our brothers and sisters.”
Although the Cathedral location will not be used to house homeless women, the diocese will provide food for the women at another shelter.
“Being involved in the project gives us a chance to offer direct help for the poor and vulnerable,” she said. “Not only do we provide a warm place and meals but more importantly we visit with the men in the shelter, we recognize that as humans we are not only sacred, being made in the image and likeness of God, but we are also social, in need of human contact.”
The temporary shelter allows the faithful to help those less fortunate and to recognize we are all really responsible for each other, she said.
Want to help?
There are still a few dates open that meals will need to be brought in. Groups or volunteers who are interested in helping or making a donation may contact Toombs at (316) 269-3965 or