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Free breakfast invites homeless community to share about mental health

St. Joseph News-Press - 5/31/2024

May 31—Community Missions celebrated the end of Mental Health Awareness Month with a free pancake breakfast complete with coffee, oatmeal and an inspirational message.

The organization wanted to help St. Joseph's homeless residents by providing a warm meal and a conversation about their mental health.

"If we can't fix mental health, there's a lot of things that we're not going to be able to fix," said Rachael Bittiker, executive director of Community Missions. "With the homeless population, we know that most of them, if not all of them, suffer from some kind of mental health issue. We thought, 'How do we support the population that we serve?'"

Staff with the nonprofit thought the best way to serve their community was to give out free meals and invite a man who has personally dealt with homelessness to offer words of encouragement and guidance. Demetrius Chance, founder of the professional development group, Diversed Perspectives, described his experience with homelessness and offered hope for a better future.

"Why do people give up? Maybe because they lost the feeling of purpose," Chance said. "It starts with us looking at ourselves. I've been there, I've been on the other side. I've seen the disgust I felt within myself. But at some point you have to say, 'You know what? What am I going to do?'"

"By listening to him speak and he's being vulnerable himself about struggles that he has had, like we all have, that they can take away that," Bittiker said. "There's nothing wrong with me because I'm feeling a certain way or I'm struggling right now and that there's hope that I can overcome whatever I'm going through.

Bittiker said she hoped the organization can continue to have these pancake breakfasts on a more regular basis to encourage open conversations as well as a sense of belonging in a community.

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