Marian House drops ‘soup kitchen’ to reflect restaurant-style dining | Homeless

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Colorado Springs’ oldest soup kitchen has been feeding anyone in need of a meal for 50 years, and now, the Marian House is dropping the “soup” and the “kitchen.”

The phrase conjures up a downtrodden image of broth with floating bits of meat or vegetables, said Rochelle Schlortt, spokeswoman for Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, which operates the Marian House in downtown Colorado Springs.

But the Marian House has been and continues to provide much more than that, she said.

The daily lunchtime meal, now under COVID-19 restrictions served from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in eight seatings, provides hot food that includes a main dish, side dish, salad, bread, dessert and drink.

“For many, this is their only meal of the day,” Schlortt said. “It’s high-calorie, nutritious and well-balanced.”

Rearranging seating from picnic-style tables and benches to round tables and chairs, and providing “generous portions” of pre-plated meals instead of a cafeteria-type of serving line, has turned the “soup kitchen” into a dining hall  that’s more like a restaurant, Schlortt said.

The changes add dignity and give guests a feeling of dining instead of receiving an institutional service, she said.

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COVID-19 also added the need for a meal card with the guests’ names and contact, in case tracing is needed in the event of virus infections, said Lorri Orwig, senior vice president of operations.

However, “we’re not going to turn anyone away,” she said.

The changes come as Springs Rescue Mission, another campus about a mile away that also offers homeless services, has expanded and on Thursday began serving breakfast, lunch and dinner meals to a clientele that is primarily the chronically homeless population.

The Marian House now is shifting to focus on families, seniors, people with disabilities and the working poor, many of which are served in its other programs that include assistance with employment, housing, medical care, literacy, language, counseling, budgeting, family matters, legal issues, identification and other needs.

The pandemic has decreased meals from 500 to 600 a day to a maximum of 288 in the main dining room and a few families in a separate family room.

The organization is not sure where the hundreds of other clients went, but Schlortt speculates that families have been staying at home more and getting food from local pantries and school distributions.

“We tend to look at COVID as all the things it’s prevented us from doing, but from our perspective, it allowed us to move forward to making some changes we’ve wanted to do for some time,” Schlortt said.

“It was time to make our dining hall more welcoming, more dignified and have servers for our guests.”

Anyone interested in volunteering at the Marian House can call 866-6559.

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Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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