Rock Island men’s shelter seeing more people needing a free meal

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois-- A Rock Island men's shelter says it's seeing a 'significant increase' in the number of people coming to its community meals.

"Between the spring and the summer, we saw an increase of 19 percent," says Steve Gottcent, the community outreach coordinator at Christian Care. "Certainly over the summer, as school shut down, we expected to see more, but that's significantly more than we anticipated."

The change could be because the Salvation Army closed in downtown Davenport over the summer.

"If you're hungry, we don't care what the reason is, you need food," Gottcent says. "We're going to get it for you. Is it possible? Certainly. But there could be other reasons as well."

"Because of the Salvation Army, they just need a place to eat," volunteer Mary Jackson says. "They need to eat. They just don't have enough."

With more people coming to get a meal, the lines and the wait are getting longer.

"Until we get an open chair, we actually have people wait outside," Gottcent says.

"Oh boy! Two months ago, when I was here, I had no idea that they were having extra. We ran out of meat," Jackson says.

Christian Care was able to add some more seats to its dining room thanks to a grant from In From the Cold, a local group raising awareness and money for organizations combating homelessness in the Quad Cities. The dining room now as 12 new chairs to get people through the line more quickly.

"I think it removes some of the anxiety," Gottcent says. "The fact that we can get people in in a timely manner, give them a sense of peace... they might have other struggles that they're worried about in their lives, but we can get them a sense of peace about this meal."

As the cold weather sets in, Christian Care isn't sure if it'll continue to see more and more people coming in for a meal, but it says donations and volunteers are always welcome.

Christian Care is hosting a pancake breakfast on Saturday, October 20 at Trinity Anglican Church in Rock Island to raise money for the shelter.