The Bowery Mission Is Serving Much More Than Meals to New York’s Homeless

Compassionate care has been on the menu at this organization for more than 130 years.

(Photo: Bowery Mission/Facebook)

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Dec 1, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Kelly Bryant is a Los Angeles–based freelance writer covering fashion, pop culture, and parenting for a variety of national publications.

For many in New York City, finding the next meal is a daily challenge. But for the homeless and hungry who walk through the red door of the Bowery Mission, a single meal could be the impetus for a better life.

Founded in 1879, the Bowery Mission does work in three main areas: compassionate care, life transformation programs, and programs for children. The compassionate care element is the sector of the organization that serves three meals a day, offers clothing for both the street and the workplace, and runs a free medical clinic.

“Typically when somebody gets involved with us, they come because we are serving meals three times a day,” says James Winans, chief development officer of the organization. “That’s true for both the people who are coming to us needing our help and the folks coming to us as donors and volunteers. So many stories around here start with, ‘I came to the Bowery Mission for a meal or clothing and I realized they have a residential program, so I joined the residential program.’ It kind of unfolds that way. For so many people who are our supporters or volunteers, ‘I first dropped off some food or gave money so they could serve meals, and then I found out they were doing all of these other things, too.’ ”

“In New York City there are about 60,000 people who are homeless right now, meaning they’re in shelters, on the streets, or living in the subways,” says Winans. “Our aim is to help the folks that are on the streets. We’re faith-based, so we do that by offering tangible expressions of God’s love.”

The Bowery Mission’s programs go even further to better the lives of people in crisis. This includes a residential program, available in five different locations in New York City, where men and women in need can live in a community with others who are going through a similar life recovery process. Participants may stay in the program for one year—taking classes, meeting with a counselor, using the career center, all in an effort to get their lives back. Last year, the Bowery Mission had nearly 100 people graduate from the program, meaning they’re clean and sober, economically back on their feet, and have a plan for their future.

But the organization isn’t only working to give people a second chance at life. It wants kids to have a positive first chance as well.

“We’re trying to engage them at a much younger age,” says Winans. “For much of our history we’ve run a summer camp that gets kids out of the city, and in the summer it helps them see a broader world. These are kids who, in many cases, have never left their own neighborhoods. They’ve never left the borough of Queens or the Bronx. This is kind of a life-changing experience for them. We work with some of those kids and their families year-round with after-school enrichment and activities.”

The video below sums up what the Bowery Mission is all about and offers an inside look at the people it’s helping each and every day.

The Bowery Mission thrives because of generous contributions, which can be monetary or in the form of food, clothing, or other goods. Learn more about how to help by heading to