'Food Brings Laughter to the Soul'

Local restaurants pitch in to help A-SPAN host abbreviated 'restaurant week' for the homeless.

A-SPAN, the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, hosted an abbreviated “restaurant week” this week at its emergency winter shelter thanks to the time, resources and generosity of two local businesses.

cooked and served meals to about 70 homeless people Tuesday night; did the same Wednesday night. Next year, A-SPAN hopes to recruit seven restaurants for a weeklong event.

Steak, chicken and veggie fajitas were on the menu Wednesday night. As the line formed, men moved aside to allow the women at the shelter to get ahead of them. It’s just polite, they said.

Alonzo Lockridge is currently staying at the shelter. He hopes to have a place of his own in the next week or two; the emergency winter shelter closes for the season on March 31.

“It’s appreciated, the quality of the food, and the flavor of the food,” Lockridge said while waiting in line. “And everyone appreciates it, even if they don’t say so.”

Not having to worry about where his next meal comes from helps as he looks for a part-time job, he said.

“It takes away the pressure,” Lockridge said. “Food brings laughter to the soul. Peace. A good meal causes tension to go down… Once it was said a restaurant was coming in, everyone was looking forward to it.”

Santa Fe Café provides food for A-SPAN three or four times a year, but Wednesday was their first time at the shelter.

Restaurant owner Kip Laramie said there used to be a gentleman who often settle in on the sidewalk outside of his Rosslyn restaurant. He would occasionally offer the man something to drink, or ask him if he needed to come in to use the restroom.

“He was always very standoffish,” Laramie said. “And he said, ‘Can you help me find a home?’ ”

Laramie, A-SPAN Development Director Jan-Michael Sacharko and a couple other volunteers customized each dish as the homeless men and women waited patiently in line. Laramie treated each one the way he does the customers in his restaurant.

“I don’t have any complaints,” said Dale Clyburn, who is staying at the shelter.

A-SPAN's relationship with Lyon Hall , according to Sacharko.

"We are always looking for ways to build relationships and help out in the community and we're very inspired by the great work A-SPAN does," Lyon Hall Chef Andy Bennett said in an email to Patch. "...I firmly believe that restaurants can play a big part in the community, helping and supporting local causes is one way in which we can do that."

The emergency winter shelter, in the heart of the Courthouse neighborhood, holds about 75 people. Current occupancy has been at about 70, despite the warmer weather.

Arlington County for office space and a two-floor, year-round comprehensive homeless service center to replace the existing shelter.

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