Archive for Friday, April 12, 1996


April 12, 1996


The homeless in Lawrence know where to go for a warm breakfast and a warm smile.

In many regards, The Jubilee Cafe is no different than the numerous other restaurants around Lawrence.

Patrons are served a good meal in a comfortable dining room, and they can enjoy the luxuries of sipping their coffee and reading the newspaper. However, the key to this cafe isn't the plush seating or the essence of fine dining; it's the patrons -- they're homeless.

``It may not be the most efficient method of serving, but we would like to keep it as close to a mom-and-pop operation as possible,'' said Joe Alford, who helped The Jubilee Cafe get up and running.

This unusual Lawrence restaurant began Oct. 18, 1994, and served only 12 meals during its grand opening. It took several months before the cafe increased the number of meals served to about 60.

The Jubilee Cafe, located in Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt., is unique not because of what it serves, but whom it serves.

It is one of 14 similar establishments in the United States that serve meals to the homeless in a restaurant setting.

Alford, chaplain of the Canterbury House in Lawrence, said the establishment was modeled after a similar cafe run at the University of Iowa under the name Agape Cafe.

Neysa Koury, a former Kansas University graduate student, first proposed the idea to Alford in the spring of 1994. Koury and Alford then took the plan to the Canterbury House board.

Through the combined donations of Canterbury House and Trinity Episcopal Church, the Jubilee Cafe was in operation later that year.

The Jubilee Cafe doesn't rush patrons through a soup-line. Patrons of the cafe are asked to sign in a record book, take a seat at one of the many tables and await their server. Once seated, they may look over the menu displayed on a colorful chalkboard, enjoy a bowl of cereal and some coffee or take a look at the day's paper.

Familiar faces

Like any other restaurant, a waitress or waiter quickly greets them, usually by name, and asks to take their order. The menu varies from week to week, offering eggs cooked to order, toast, hash-browns, bacon or sausage, pancakes and a choice of juice.

Every week there are the regulars, and from time to time a newcomer will frequent the cafe. The majority are familiar faces and everyone seems to know each other's name. It is not a soup kitchen; it is exactly what the name says, a cafe. It is a place for members of the community to come in and enjoy a freshly prepared meal.

The cafe is funded strictly through contributions.

``With the exception of some fruit from Mercantile Grocery and the bread from WheatFields, we buy every thing fresh. The idea is not to serve them leftovers, we primarily want to provide a good meal,'' Alford said.

Although a large sum of the money is gathered from Episcopalians in the Kansas Diocese, other sources contribute to the operation.

Surprisingly, a tidy sum also is contributed by the patrons themselves. Often they will leave their server a tip after eating. This money is then contributed to the general fund used to purchase groceries.

In the past, KU groups such as Hilel and the Center for Community Outreach have provided either financial or volunteer support. WheatFields Bakery routinely provides loaves of bread to the cafe daily.

Open only one day a week for breakfast, The Jubilee Cafe recruits volunteers primarily from the KU community.

A large number of individuals were recruited from campus through a table at the Kansas Union. Of the 70 to 80 volunteers who initially showed up for training, only 20 to 25 continue to offer weekly assistance. The number of volunteers is sufficient during the academic year; however, the cafe suffers drastically during the summer.

Last summer only four regular volunteers were available and the cafe relied on members of the church and two professors at the university for help.

During the summer months, the number of patrons usually decreases. Still, the cafe was forced to alter its presentation and begin serving in buffet fashion.

With the hope of increased financial support or grants, the cafe is looking to hire a student to serve as the resident manager and coordinate all aspects of the cafe.

Helping themselves

The cafe is primarily advertised through word of mouth, but the various shelters and services in Lawrence work together to support the homeless population, as do the homeless themselves.

``There is a sense of camaraderie on the street, they look out for each other,'' Alford said.

This camaraderie is seen when they are compelled to tell a friend about the free meal. Support on the street is given not only by the homeless, but also by the cafe's volunteers.

John Hoyt has become very familiar with the homeless community through his job delivering newspapers to downtown merchants. He said he often finds himself telling a passerby about the location of the cafe and persuading them to take advantage of the opportunity.

Hoyt, like the other faithful volunteers, comes in every week to help clean up, but he also checks attendance at the cafe.

``If I notice a certain individual didn't make it in today, I will try and find them on the street. Working in the downtown area, I am familiar with the local patrons,'' he said.

Hoyt described one individual with whom he has built a relationship.

``At first she was frightened by me and very aggressive, now we greet each other with hugs. I bring her a loaf of bread from WheatFields and truly reach her heart. She is given something solid, with no expectations in return,'' Hoyt said.

The Jubilee Cafe, it seems, offers the homeless more than a good meal. It offers a sense of belonging.

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