On a recent Tuesday, a few dozen people line up for a hot meal at Our Daily Bread Employment Center. Some are regulars; others have come for the first time. Each of them has a story about the journey that led them there.
Kevin Holmes knows how to sing – and he is not afraid to belt out R&B favorites after finishing a hot lunch. The 55-year-old starts softly as he sits on a wall outside the center, but his voice grows stronger until he is happily serenading the entire line of guests.
“In 2019, I was on the brink of death,” he says, describing a bout with double pneumonia while wrestling with family-related challenges. “God saved my life and has a purpose for me. I’m striving to be an R&B singer!”
After learning about Our Daily Bread from “a homeboy,” Holmes now attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on-site and has participated in other services, thankful for the ease of access.
“I come every day, like clockwork. The food is good, and it keeps me nourished,” he explains – and breaks into song again.
Tempesta Braveheart never intended to stop in Baltimore. But the 29-year-old’s path from New York to Louisiana was derailed and, after landing in the city with no income or connections, she “wandered around” and slept on local streets.
“I don’t have anybody,” she explains.
About a week after arriving, she is at Our Daily Bread for her first meal there, which she describes as “not bad; really good.” She has been given lists of services she can access in Baltimore but is determined to head south. She doesn’t know anyone in Louisiana, either, but looks forward to what it might offer.
“It’s a new life, a new start, a chance to settle down,” she says, adding that she might come back to Our Daily Bread if it takes longer than she hopes to move on.
Derek Knox is still surprised to find himself at Our Daily Bread Employment Center.
Growing up in Park Heights, he had a basketball court outside his back door and dreams of playing in the NBA.
“Nobody would have ever told me I was going to be here right now,” he said.
Over the years, he found himself caught up in drugs and then experiencing homelessness, a trajectory he describes as a predictable story that no one predicts for themselves.
Two years ago, someone suggested he could get a meal at Our Daily Bread. He lives up the street, and now walks down – rain or shine – for meals and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
Dreams of the NBA faded long ago, but he picks up games on a court not far from the center. “I still play – I played on my 60th birthday,” he says, smiling.
Barbara Arnholt faced one challenge after another in recent years. She was attacked on a street corner a few years ago, and suffered a spinal fracture, a broken pelvis and a concussion. She ended up coming to Baltimore shortly after the assault, in part because her family had long owned a home in East Baltimore, but the house fell into disrepair and was condemned.
“I had to sleep outside for a while,” she says. “Then they got me into a hotel.”
She comes to Our Daily Bread for the food, but has been drawn to other services, including the computer lab when it was open before the pandemic, and she trusts the information and advice of staff members.
“I’m coming almost every day,” she says. “I’d just rather get out and be here talking to my friends.”
For 40 years, Our Daily Bread has provided millions of meals to Baltimore’s most vulnerable populations, including more than 86,800 meals in the first 10 months of this fiscal year alone. And it doesn’t take much more than a conversation to hear how many of the guests that line up for a meal each day are hungry for so much more – food, support, guidance, companionship and love.