Connecting Communities with a Compassionate Heart
You’d like to help with Mission from Mars and the food ministry and want to learn more, or don’t know where to get started or how you can help? Use this guide to learn more about who we are, what we do, and what you can do for others. It is amazing what one person can do and as a team even better! Thank-you for considering coming on this journey with us!
Background Mission From Mars Sunday Lunch
After reviewing the services of other organizations, Mission From Mars identified there was a need to provide a lunchtime meal on Sundays on the Northside. Because access to public transportation is difficult for homeless (money, bus passes) and they may not be physically able to walk miles across the city, providing this meal fills a gap for many living near the Northside.
We strive to provide a protein, starch, and vegetable in each meal. We also provide something to drink and a dessert. We welcome blessing bag donations with necessary hygiene items or other donations! (See "Services")
We provide tables, sterno set-up, serving utensils, hand sanitizer, serving gloves, and trash bags. We do bring napkins, forks, and plates, but we appreciate these donated if possible. We do have contacts for free food if there are financial concerns! Just ask us!
If you could no longer cook for yourself, what would you miss the most? We often hear fresh fruits and vegetables as the answer to this question, although some have told us they miss pigs in a blanket, casserole dishes, pork chops, and even challah bread! We ask that you please avoid pasta with red sauce, that is popular in shelters. They love homemade meatball subs, fried chicken, or pierogies. We had a team come in and do a taco and ice-cream bar! We try to put a lot of love in our meals! They absolutely love and appreciate it!
WHO? You, your neighborhood, book club, church group, school group, baseball team, girl scouts or other organization can provide a meal to help support the community of homeless.
WHAT? You and/or your group can provide any portion of the above (100 people in winter and 150 in summer), provide paper products, drinks, or whatever you are able to do. Those who are called to take a leadership role, can take a “Full Meal Deal” where they and their friends collect all of the needed items, cook, and then serve the meal.
WHERE?: Mission From Mars sets up ACROSS the street from Light of Life mission in the park area. You use Light of Life Rescue Mission GPS address: 10 E. North Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. We serve near the outside of the Martin Luther King Elementary School. We are there holiday, rain, snow, or sunshine. The address is: 50 Montgomery Place Pittsburgh, PA 15212. You can also use the address for Light of Life which is: 10 E. North Ave Pittsburgh, Pa. 15212. The meal is across the street from Light of Life in the park. They just added a DO NOT ENTER sign, but I would entire at your own risk or go around the block.
It is in the park in front of the Verizon building and near the school. It is ACROSS the street from Light of Life Mission. (in front of the park/playground) We are not affiliated with Light of Life, but this location was chosen as it is within walking distance of the shelter and streets where our homeless friends live. You will see the homeless congregate there and arrival of volunteers starting to arrive at 11:30 am.
WHY?: Because it is the right thing to do to feed the hungry and clothe the poor. We are called to love one another and help our fellow brothers/sisters in need.
IMPORTANT: It must be brought hot and following all food safety guidelines. These are our family and are inviting you to cook for our family. We need hot items brought hot and cold items cold. We will put the food immediately on the sterno set-up.
FULL MEAL DEAL
Full Meal Deal: You provide the entire meal with drinks and paper products.
- Provide a meal for 100 people and 150 between May-August. We keep an eye on the numbers in attendance and ensure we have enough food for everyone. We try to incorporate protein, starch, veggie and dessert.
- Food choice: Whatever fits your budget and cooking skills! Kindly avoid pasta with red sauce, as they get this in the shelters.
WHAT MISSION FROM MARS PROVIDES: Our team will provide sterno set-up (the catering heated trays), two tables, serving utensils, hand sanitzer, serving gloves, and trash bags. A member from our team (typically Christy) will meet you downtown to help set up with some regular volunteers. We will bring plates, forks, and napkins, but we appreciate these donated if your team is able.
WHAT DOES YOUR GROUP PROVIDE:
- Food for 100
- Food should be prepared in aluminum trays to put into the sternos. Some have brought crock-pots or large roasters. There is no electricity available, we serve on the street.
- We encourage bottled water and they love other beverage alternatives. However, we always try to have 100 bottles of water. What is not drank is then taken to the encampment areas.
-The "full meal deal" means that you will bring food, drinks, desserts, plates, napkins, and forks.
- Attendance varies, but we generally have 65-100 people who come. During the summer months, this number is closer to 150. We discourage using it as a buffet, they have dinner available at 4:00 in the shelters. We also deliver to 10-15 people living in camps and people we see on the streets downtown Pittsburgh if there is extra food. Your team will not do encampment or street delivery. At the end of the meal, we will provide to go containers that your volunteers help fill in the event of leftovers. Kids are permitted (at your own discretion and risk)
1. Who we are and what we do (and don’t do)
2. Safety and Children
3. Sunday Meal volunteerism
What is Mission from Mars?
The goal of Mission From Mars is to create a community of like-minded men and women who feel compelled to help the homeless. We love shaping the minds of children by teaching them to serve. We want you to find a place to serve, when you don’t know where or how. We do this by facilitating and fostering community involvement. We try to provide a way for groups, individuals, and families to get involved. We have started this with our Sunday lunch ministry. Through the community, we provide meals in an area and during a time where many do not have access to a meal.
What we do, for the community: Bring your talents and interests to the team! With a community developed, we hope that you find a way get involved. For example, Mission From Mars team members have created their own groups who join the community on Sunday:
Street Ministry– Aside from the scheduled lunch team, we have volunteers that dedicate their time to just being there to listen. We deliver food to downtown Pittsburgh homeless and have regularly fed many encampment areas. We link as many people as we can to services. We ensure they live in sanitary conditions, run groups, provide supplies, social support, and help new homeless get established with the basics.
Donation Drive- Clothing, backpacks, blankets, sleeping bags, tents, shoes, new underwear, socks, or gloves/hats, and blessing/comfort bags. Anyone can organize clothing/shoe drives or make blessing bags for the homeless! We do ask that you bring them down to the Sunday lunch spot. The information is under "contact us". We ask that it is clean without stains, smells, rips, or pet hair. Also, you are welcome to bring donations with your team.
Welcome Wagon- We are looking for people who will help our friends that get an apartment. We provide emotional support as they transmission into their new homes. We have provided close to 50 people with what they needed to get started in an apartment. Some of those friends had their entire house furnished through donations. We have a list to help guide you!
Music/Art- This was started by a formerly homeless man, who played his acoustic guitar during lunch for our friends! We had Aldean for over two years till he moved and would love some music brought back to our lunch. We have even had "art in the park" for the homeless.
Motivational Speaking or sharing the Gospel- Before the lunch begins Mission From Mars reviews available resources and always tries to share a motivational message. We always say a prayer and give thanks for what we do have. We even had "Worship Wednesday" under the bridge for three months.
Support the larger organizations- We support Operation Safety Net and Mercy with meals in order to help provide the service of the Severe Weather Emergency Shelters which opens when the temperature gets below 25 degrees. Please contact us if you have a business that would like to sponsor a meal for the estimated 100 men who sleep in a gym and 30 women laying on the floor in a room.
Collaborate with other groups with the similar goals- We are also involved in meetings within the City of Pittsburgh that creates a collaboration among different leaders working to serve the homeless. This helps us organize among each group so we do not overlap services or encroach on encampment areas. We work to protect their living space and privacy.
What we do, for the homeless:
- You are not alone: Our goal is for all of our homeless friends to know that they are not alone, God is with them, and that there are friends who are here to help.
- Focus on survival: We serve primarily only those individuals that are currently homeless, chronic or short term. The majority we serve are the street homeless, but we also serve those living in the shelters.
- Community: We hope to provide a gathering place on Sundays for the homeless to fellowship with the community and also provide support to their fellow homeless. Mission From Mars provides compassion to PEOPLE who need it. We don’t judge, but we do listen. We understand that many of the people we serve are fighting addictions and some pretty terrible life circumstances. Often what is needed is just a person who is willing to take time to listen. Just knowing they are cared about and valued as fellow man/woman means the world to them.
- Resources: We provide information and resources to the homeless. We provide information regarding where to go and what organizations will help them with jobs, housing, bathing/restroom facilities, mental heath, addiction services, and much more.
- We listen: The Mission From Mars team also spends time during the week visiting encampment areas, alleys and other locations where homeless are making their home. We seek out needs and work together to fulfill. We return and deliver what they may need for survival. We also provide meals directly to the camps and do our best to improve their living conditions.
What we aren’t?
We are not a soup kitchen, shelter, or food pantry. We cannot currently collect and house excessive amounts of items for distribution, but you are welcome to help someone we identify get started in their new home. If we find specific needs for specific individuals, we do our best to meet them- such as a man who needs a size 15 shoe or items for work. If you feel called to help with this ministry, please let us know! We are proud to hand out something that is neat, clean, and not trash. They already suffer from low self-esteem, they are better than trash bags. We promote a clean clothing exchange.
We are NOT a non-profit, therefore anything you donate is not tax deductible. We are a loosely knit group of people who are looking to help our friends and neighbors, who happen to be homeless. This typically entails helping with food, sometimes clothing, and always lending an ear and a prayer.
We are not insured, licensed, or registered in any way. While we may organize a particular meeting time or place to distribute food (or other items), we cannot be responsible for anyone’s safety in these situations, or while preparing or serving food. It is imperative that all people engaging in street ministry understand that they do so at their own risk. We will provide some other information we have learned about safety below.
Safety and Children
The follow has been compiled from various members of Mission From Mars. No one statement is a ‘rule’. Think of it more as best practices and lessons learned.
Best Practices and Lessons Learned
Many who are homeless experience mental illness/post traumatic stress: Many of the folks we are helping are people who may have experienced traumatic events, could be suffering from mental illness, or other issues and it is important that we respect their space. While it is certainly alright to engage and talk with those we meet (you will find this to be the most rewarding part of this ministry), you should be guided by their cues. If they are not responsive or seem to want to be left alone, we suggest you do just that.
What about children? We want to create a community where children and families are welcome to serve and learn. If you choose to bring children with you to the distribution site, you should exercise extreme caution in doing so. You must ensure they are under your immediate and close supervision at all times. They should never be left alone or go alone with a stranger. Situations can easily and quickly escalate or get out of control, and occasionally there are incidents among the individuals we provide for. Be aware at all times for your own safety. If you have concerns about bringing your children, we suggest coming alone to volunteer and understand the environment. Or message Mission From Mars and we can connect you to other parents who serve regularly.
Can we take pictures? Mission From Mars does take an effort to not take photographs of those we meet in this ministry. Many are seeking work or simply have an aversion to being photographed. Please respect their privacy. If they do give you permission to take a photo with them, NEVER post these pictures online without their permission, or distribute them in any way.
Personal Privacy: You should not identify yourself by last name, nor should you provide details about where you live, or what school you go to. We recommend you do not wear apparel that is specific to your school or is personally identifiable. You should not identify Volunteers or Mission from Mars organizers by last name in any meeting with those we serve, or online. While many of the people you will meet are amazing people who have hit hard times, we must also be aware that we do not know the background and circumstances that have led them be homeless. Being safety conscious is a must!
What to wear? Many of the people who have met with our homeless friends have felt compelled to literally give the shirt off of their backs. While you would certainly not be required to do so, we recommend you leave valuables (jewelry) and any special or expensive clothing at home. In one instance, a woman was freezing and had no coat. You may just feel compelled to give the coat off your back, or the boots off your feet.
Important note regarding safety: While some of the above may seem daunting or downright scary, it’s not meant to deter people from helping, but it is to ensure that you select items to help with that are within your comfort zone. Perhaps you would rather be behind the scenes. There are lots of ways to help, please see under "services".
We believe that there is something for everyone with Mission from Mars street ministry. Do you feel called to do something to make a difference? We have no staff, just volunteers…like you. Will you join us?