Mayoral candidates Mayor Mike Bell, left, and D. Michael Collins debate during forum at Walbridge Park shelter house.
The Blade/Lori King
With political differences likely to be set aside today, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and Councilman D. Michael Collins will share a meal today with others who need it most.
Mayor Bell and Mr. Collins, who is challenging the incumbent in the Nov. 5 election, will join residents at the Family House homeless shelter for dinner at 4 p.m. The monthly meal, held the second Saturday of each month at the 669 Indiana Ave. shelter, is provided by volunteers, including parishioners from Washington Church, 3925 West Central Ave.
Terri Swartzlander, one of the monthly event's organizers, emailed invitations to the candidates hoping they'd take something away from a meal with homeless families. “I told them that many times, people have a stereotype of the unhoused — that they are lazy or drug addicts — and they need to see that is not true,” Ms. Swartzlander said.
Funding for homeless shelters has been an issue in the 2013 mayoral campaign. Mr. Collins has blasted the Bell administration for recommending funding cuts to shelters such as Family House. Mayor Bell in turn has said he is following federal guidelines that dictate more funding be directed toward rehousing rather than supplemental programs at shelters.
“I have no intention of it being political,” Ms. Swartzlander said. “I just want them to come experience what we do every month.”
Renee Palacios, Family House's executive director, said each monthly meal has a theme. “This Saturday is 'winner winner chicken dinner,’ ” Ms. Palacios said. “We have a resident meeting every Thursday, and they were informed that [Mr. Bell and Mr. Collins] were coming, and they were encouraged to use their voices because a lot of the time, the voice of the unhoused is not heard.
“Councilman Collins called and asked if he could bring anything, and he said he is bringing his famous sweet potato casserole,” she added.
Five other churches also bring food into Family House on different nights for residents.