Dorothy’s Place in Salinas, California, a short drive from Monterey, has been on special trajectory since 1982. The Franciscan Workers of Junipero Serra provide essential services and transitional support to people experiencing the injustice of homelessness and extreme poverty. We decided to volunteer at the hospitality center even though we were only in town for a night. We are so glad we did because it was quite an eye opening experience.
We had trouble finding the place at first but once we rounded the corner we knew we had made it. The streets were lined with tents, personal belongings, and people. This area used to be a “Chinatown” district. After a fire the area never built back up and the cops have left the area alone ever since. Approximately 300 people call these drug-infested streets home.
Dorothy’s Place provides food, clothing, counseling, laundry, and a safe place for women to sleep at night. The top floor acts as an apartment for those who are drug-free and trying to get off the streets. Kristin Jones, Volunteer Coordinator, told us that wealthy people from Carmel and Monterey buy bus tickets for the homeless people to come here to get them out of their neighborhood. This made our hearts extremely heavy with sadness for this lack of compassion.
Kristin took us inside to meet Nic Bianchi who would be directing us to help prep for lunch in the kitchen. Everyday at 1pm they serve approximately 200 people for lunch. We made fruit salads, cut vegetables, and cleaned the kitchen. We helped so much we were able to prep for lunch the next day. Nic told us stories of her previous gypsy lifestyle, invited us to her ranch, and discussed the unpredictable turns life makes. She hopes to help comingle the rich and poor to have a meal together. We think it could only benefit both populations and hope we can help when the time comes. Nic sent us on our way with a lot of food for our travels. We drove away so happy we helped out, even if only for a few hours. There is another side to Monterey than just wealth, golf, and the beautiful ocean.