WATTS — The word “homeless” has a stigma. According to chef Darlene Young, labeling those who need help as “homeless” puts a distance between them and others.
When Young decided to start an event to feed people living on the street 10 years ago, she wanted to step away from that stigma.
“That’s why I [call my nonprofit] ‘Feeding Our Friends on the Outside.’ It’s not about calling them homeless all the time, because homeless means hopeless,” Young said. “A lot of people need to get the mindset [that] you need to help others because you never know if you’re going to be in that same position. I know what it feels like to have nothing at all. That’s why I give back.”
Now, Young is holding the 10th annual Feeding Our Friends Outside event. It will take place Nov. 9 from noon to 3 p.m. at the Tabernacle of Faith Baptist Church, 11328 S. Central Ave.
Young first came up with the event while seeing people living their in encampments on the streets of Watts.
“I mean, people just living in tents, cooking their own food,” Young said. “I felt that by me being a chef, that I could do something to relieve the pain of what they’re going through.”
The event has expanded from earlier years, though the main focus is still serving dinner. Now, the Feeding Our Friends Outside event also provides clothing, haircuts and hygiene kits, along with on-site mental health services and housing information.
This year’s event will be held at its long-standing venue, Tabernacle of Fatih Baptist Church. The event was moved to Tabernacle of Faith in 2015 after being held in earlier years at the Harrison-Ross Mortuary. That first year she contacted the late Rev. Reginald M. Lefall III, and when a new pastor came to the church, Young had to contact him.
“I didn’t even know that it was a new pastor at all,” Young said. “And [Pastor John David Long] told me no problem. This is God’s favor. He had never met me. He didn’t know my name. He just only heard me on the phone telling them what I do.”
Young says, “I’m thankful for Pastor Long and Tabernacle Faith Baptist Church, because I wanted to always keep [the event] on Central. I didn’t want to move it nowhere else. [People said], ‘Oh, you need to go downtown.’ No. I was born raised in Watts. And I want to keep what I’m doing in this [community].”
Feeding Our Friends on the Oustide also has the help of volunteers and sponsors who have been helpful for many years, including City Councilman Joe Busciano, Assemblyman Mike Gipson, the All or Nuthin Motorcycle Club and Harrison-Ross Mortuary.
Young believes in the power of a community working together to help others.
“A lot of people don’t know that if everybody does a little bit, it’s like a pot of gumbo, it’ll get accomplished,” she said. “Because of the fact that, you are up one day, but you can be down the next.”
Overall, Young is excited for the event.
“I’m just looking forward for November the 9th, and just praying that everything goes well and that we don’t run out of food.”
For more information, or to volunteer, contact (213) 433-8860.
By Quinci Legardye