Is Still Powerful
- Homeless Women Celebrate Each Other
- by Julie Eagleton
Several local organizations brought the homeless women of Seattle together last Mother's Day weekend to share a sense of community and to celebrate their womanhood. The first gathering was Saturday morning at the Church of Mary Magdalene's Women's Day Celebration, and the following was W.H.E.E.L.'s Mother's Day Brunch, held on Sunday at the Common Meals Cafe.
Sing a Joyful Song
Early Saturday morning the Church of Mary Magdalene was alive with celebration. The basement of the First United Methodist Church Downtown was packed full of women of all denominations and backgrounds who were singing, praising, healing, and breaking bread together.
The celebration began with an early breakfast, which was followed by song and dance. The women waved graceful scarves through the air as they sang from their hearts, many joining in with musical instruments of their own. The Rev. Jean Kim, pastor for the congregation, danced through the aisles with her drum for many of the songs.
After song came the sermon, where everyone in the congregation shared ideas about Mother's Day and womanhood, and were given gift packs that included hygiene items and food. The celebration closed with the congregation once again breaking bread together for lunch.
Although the celebration was for Mother's Day, it was actually named a "Women's Day" celebration by the women of Mary Magdalene.
"We recognize that Mother's Day can be a very painful one for many women," says the Rev. Kim. "This celebration is about coming together and doing something about our feelings, rather than avoiding them. For those whose Mother has passed away, we will celebrate her life. For those who feel pain on this day, we will have a ritual of healing and forgiving.
Regardless of individual situations, we celebrate the quality of Motherliness in us - love, care and nurturing-and pledge to be a Mother to ourselves and to one another. We celebrate being women."
The Church of Mary Magdalene is a congregation of women that is accepting, loving, sharing, spiritual and therapeutic. It exists for women who are struggling to be free from multiple difficulties including homelessness and poverty.
Its purpose, according to Rev. Kim, is to empower women to restore pride, self-worth and dignity, and to end homelessness by developing emotional, spiritual, and physical homes.
Everyone is welcome at Mary Magdalene. The congregation included Buddhists, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and individuals with no denomination. Rev. Kim says that she hopes the members of her congregation can find their way home from being not only physically homeless, but spiritually homeless as well.
The congregation comes together to share singing, Bible Study, computer training, arts & crafts, support groups, counseling, housing and job hunting, and balanced meals. This Mother's Day, or "Women's Day," Rev. Kim and her congregation came one step closer to home by coming together as a community to celebrate being woman.
Across town on Sunday morning, homeless women came together to share brunch and a sense of community in celebration of Mother's Day at the Common Meals Cafe.
The brunch, put on by the Women's Housing Equality and Enhancement League (WHEEL), was a first for what they hope will become regular communal meals for women in the Downtown/Belltown area. According to WHEEL, the goal is not only to provide women with a nutritious meal, but also to provide them with a sense of community.
Sunday morning women had the opportunity to share stories with each other about their children, their Mothers, their family joys, and their sadnesses over a gourmet brunch. The food, prepared by Boomtown Cafe, was raved about by almost everyone that attended.
The Boomtown Cafe is a project for a non-profit restaurant to provide healthful meals to those who normally wouldn't get them. Currently, they are working in cooperation with WHEEL to create an Evening Meal Program to meet that goal.
According to WHEEL staff, however, finding a nutritious evening meal is becoming increasingly difficult and daunting for homeless women.
Unfortunately, neighborhood shelters were recently forced to limit evening meals to shelter residents only. Previously, low-income women could come in and count on a balanced meal.
"It is not just the meal that we're concerned about", says one WHEEL staff member, " it's also the sense of community that women desperately need in order to keep going. Often times the difference between whether a woman makes it or not depends on her support system."
To meet this increasing need, WHEEL is working diligently to get the Evening Meal Project up and running. According to WHEEL staff, they hope to be able to offer a meal served in the same location seven days a week for women only.
The staff hopes that providing a safe evening gathering place will cut down on the loneliness and isolation homeless women can feel. From the buzzing conversation felt at the Mother's Day Brunch, it looks like WHEEL is off to a great start.
~originally published in Real Change, 1994.
[ 1995 WHEEL Mother's Day Brunch ] [ 2000 WHEEL Mother's Day Brunch ]