Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Saturday Night at the Shelter

Cooking dinner with Dani and her boyfriend at the Homeless Youth Services shelter for GBLT teens & young adults was a FASCINATING experience on more than a few levels. Here are the highlights...

The Kids
As I'd noted in previous visits, there's a fairly typical assortment of "types" - some are polite and helpful, some are sociable, some are sullen. One kid wanted to tell me all about his CT scan that morning, another kept asking us a question that made no sense, one warned us that we should hide the cereal because it wouldn't survive 5 minutes in the open, and the sweetest were these two big teddy-bear guys who wanted to show off how well they chop vegetables. The age range seems to be 16-20 ... some of them have recently transitioned to public housing but stop by for dinner when they don't have food.

"Hey, it's real shepherd's pie, not that watery sh*t they serve at the church!"
So said one kid to another, when kid #2 showed disappointment at the menu. We chose shepherd's pie because they don't get much meat, and when they do, it's chicken. Plus, Dani found a great price on ground beef.

The inclusion of cheese brought all the kids over for a look. Mental note: recipes with cheese are a big hit.

The Pantry
Dani & I sifted through the contents of the unpadlocked fridge (no idea what was in the locked one) and the rack of shelves to see what kind of things they were being supplied with so we wouldn't double up. Not a chance - 50% of the pantry was canned yams, and they recently got a delivery of about 100 lbs of potatoes. As I put a few containers of oatmeal on the shelf, one of the kids mentioned that grits are equally and maybe more popular...but then, that might have been a self-serving remark, heh.

"You're straight?? So why are you helping us?"
I know most of these kids ran away from home or were thrown out because they're gay. I guess they haven't been in NYC long enough to realize that things like that don't matter that much. We were apparently a demonstration of acceptance, and I'd argue that that will have a more enduring impact than dinner and 6 boxes of Frosted Flakes. Dani's mother wants to join in the cooking at some point, maybe in a couple of weeks - that will completely blow their minds.

The Lump
I'm not the only one who finds the girl who supervises really awkward. I'd say "useless", but she posts wish lists and benefit info to a Yahoo Group, which obviously works or else I wouldn't even be writing this post. In real life, she's a lump. No eye contact, no acknowledgement of your presence, no quick tour of the kitchen before cooking, no interest in seeing what we brought. Heck, the only reason we kept aside a plate of meatless shepherd's pie for her was because one of the kids told us she was vegetarian.

Free Lipstick for Trannies?
I'm not the only one who doesn't think this is the best use for free cosmetics - Dani actually brought it up first, but it echoed my own thoughts from my first visit to the shelter as well. Not that there aren't "real girls" at this shelter, but they are the minority and less likely to be caked in make-up than the transvestites. So I'm collecting such things for Bottomless Closet, an organization that helps disadvantaged and victimized women get back on their feet with workshops (budgeting, interviewing, etc), work-appropriate clothing, and a goody-bag of toiletries. I plan to drop off my first donation in about 2 weeks.


Anonymous said...

I've got a kick ass recipe (and by recipe I mean its all in my mind) for Alfredo, Spinach, Sausage Lasagna. And sausage is on sale next week at shoprite for 1.88$/pound.


Schevus said...

I find it strange that the attendant behaves the way you describe. Every person I have met in that kind of capacity has been very outgoing. Sounds like it was a successful venture.

- Schev

Katie said...

Oh, Dani, I think I want to eat with the kids!! I personally would choose to make it a bit easier on us "chefs" by using any old pasta rather than the fiddliness of lasagne noodles.

Schevus, I'm also surprised at the complete lack of social and communication skills (or even willingness to attempt such). I'd have considered those amongst the top 5 essential skills for the job. She's there every night, so I'm assuming she's a paid this economy, the shelter could definitely do better.

Anonymous said...

So I guess I'll buy the sausage next week? Heh, any pasta works, it'll just be called ziti then.

The ingredients are

spinach (frozen works well)
alfredo sauce (which can be made with cream and cheese, whichever is easier)
cheddar or moterey jack cheese

Lets keep an eye out for the ingredients on sale. By the way, when do you want to cook again?