San Rafael Police officers often interact with San Rafael’s homeless population, whether they regularly see them on the streets or are responding to specific calls.
But San Rafael Police Lt. Ralph Pata recently spent some time with the familiar faces of San Rafael’s streets in a less formal setting — he cooked dinner for a group of roughly 30 homeless people at the First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael.
“This is stepping out of the comfort zone for us,” Pata said as he stood next to San Rafael Police Lieutenant Dan Fink, who came to support Pata as he prepared a spaghetti meal and dined with Pata and the attendants. “We’ve had a relationship with these people, but never sat down and spent more than five minutes talking to them.”
Before they ate dinner, the group stood in a large circle for introductions.
Some of the men kept their introductions simple, saying their name and thanking Pata and the other organizers for dinner. Others gave a bit more of a backstory with a positive spin — when one man said he had been sober for 15 days and was off parole, the room erupted into cheers and applause. Others played it straight — one man was a veteran in need of a job and home.
Pata was asked to cook the dinner through his participation in the city’s Thursday Morning Group, where local officials and community members who meet regularly to tackle’s San Rafael issues including homelessness.
Pata, who was born and raised in San Rafael, said the one-time experience let him see an entirely differently side of the city.
The recent evening meal and shelter was one of the two shelters available on Thursday nights in San Rafael — the church accommodates the homeless male nonsmokers in the city while the smokers and women are accommodated elsewhere. The dinner and moving shelter is part of a network of roughly 30 churches in Marin that do rotating meals for the homeless.
After the meal, the event organizer, St. Vincent de Paul Society Associate Director Suzanne Walker, held an open dialogue with anyone from the group who wanted to participate to discuss what’s happening in the streets and the impact of the press.
Last month the San Rafael City Council brought the city’s homeless issue to the forefront when who will beautiful portions for downtown in exchange for food or housing vouchers.
City officials have said the program is one of the several ways they plan to address homelessness issues in San Rafael.
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