In this, the first of what's sure to be a long and wonderful series of themed articles about different soup kitchens in town, we look at our beloved Good Shepherd, and what makes it suck. Just to be clear, they're all terrible. They're mostly bad in the same ways, but each of them is their own special mix of awful. They are here to remind poor people that we are worthless and don't deserve safety, decent food, or dignity. What we need, each time we eat, is disappointment, anxiety, and inconvenience. It's the only way we'll ever learn to smarten up and turn our lives around, right? Right. Sure. Yeah. Why not. Let's just go with that. Otherwise, why would we have a massive prison-themed soup kitchen across from a school on Queen east? And why would we be told to go there by government workers when we ask why our benefits don't include a food budget? It's like, ok, shelter, yeah, basic needs, yeah, ok, where's the food budget? Oh it's part of basic needs. What? No it's not, nobody spends that on food and everything else. Well, that's what it's there for. And in case it's not enough (I love how they say that, in case), there's this handy list of places where you can get a free meal. And then you descend into the rabbit hole. You go into that hole and eventually you'll land at the Shepherd. It's brutal. They let you go through as many times as you want, but so many times, you won't want to. You won't even want to go for a little walk and come back a half hour later. And you could: they have two-hour servings. But you'll be so over it you'll just want to get out of the neighbourhood entirely. The whole area is haunted, anyway. You do not want to hang out there.
You know what you have to do in order to wash your hands before eating at this place? You have to either take your food with you into the bathroom before you sit down, or you have to do one of the following, and have the line get like ten people longer by the time you're done: A) go in the front and ask to use the washroom... you'll be escorted over there, or; B) go past the line, telling everyone as you go that you're just going to the washroom, and then do it, and leave, and come back at the end of the line, and hope nobody just randomly punches you or something. So there's that. And you can try to get someone to save you a place in the line.
If it's breakfast and you actually managed to get your hands clean, make sure you show up in the first half hour to get any protein that's not peanut butter or milk. That means getting in within the first half hour. That doesn't mean you can show up at 9am and expect some love. Maybe, maybe not. They have hard boiled eggs at the beginning and they run out right away. Nice. Try cracking into one of their eggs with dirty hands. Nine times out of ten you'll end up just eating the yolk.
Actually, their breakfast is so ghetto, they officially call it a snack instead of calling it breakfast. If you're into pastries and peanut butter, have at it. It gets old fast.
There's absolutely no way to tell whether or not the peanut butter you're putting on your bread has been smeared with fifty different hobos' used spoons. Yum. There's always a bunch floating around in there.
Anywhere you sit, some crazy must mutter at you. Or shout. Or start with muttering and slowly build to shouting. They need you to keep wondering whether they're talking to you, and also make out just enough of what they're saying to be afraid of them. Go ahead and change seats. There'll be another one waiting for you.
It's full to the brim with thugged-out thugs, thugging out another thugged-out day, yelling at each-other about violence stuff, brushing up against you and then yelling "don't touch me bro," and generally intimidating everyone, including the staff. The staff are so unprepared to deal with security issues, that the whole place just feels like waves of static are always going through it, ready to build into a shock. And it does. Some pretty bad flip-outs in there. It's so bad when you're right next to it, or in somebody's path to the door. It's so, so bad.
It looks, feels, and tastes like jail.
The washrooms are so cramped it's like they were designed to cause conflict.
If you eat there too much, your feces turns orange. Enough said.