NEW YORK (CBS 2) – As men, women and children set their tables for family dinner on Christmas, there’s a growing number of Americans who won’t be setting their tables at home.
That’s because they don’t have a home. Instead, many Americans will be eating at soup kitchens across the country.
Jose Roman and his wife Julialine are spending their first Christmas Eve at a soup kitchen in Manhattan.
“The economy got messed up and I lost my job,” Roman said.
With no income, they lost their apartment last summer. Family helped for a while, but now they’re homeless, turning to the Church of Holy Apostles in New York City for help.
“You just devote every day to finding your next meal and where am I going to be warm,” said Julialine Morales-Diaz.
It’s not just the homeless who are hungry. Seventeen million U.S. households struggled to provide food for their families at some point this year, according to government statistics.
Volunteers at Holy Apostles serve anywhere from 1,200 to 1,400 hot meals every weekday, and like the majority of soup kitchens around the country, they’ve seen an increasing number of people come through their doors in the last few years.
“We’re here to give food, but we’re also here to give people hope, to give people a sense that they are not alone,” said Holy Apostles soup kitchen executive director Rev. Glenn Chalmars.
According to the nation’s largest hunger relief charity, more than a third of the families in need have at least one person working. Roman and Morales-Diaz are both trying to get back on their feet.
“I’m actually enrolled in school right now. It’s not like we’re not trying to change our situation. I just hope somebody notices we’re trying to reach out for help,” Morales-Diaz said.
As Roman and Morales-Diaz try to get on their feet, their only Christmas wish is to celebrate in their own home next year.
It costs Holy Apostles $2.6 million a year to run its soup kitchen. Typically, about 50 percent of the money comes from individual donations. Charitable foundations, the government and other sources make up the rest.