By Shuman Zhang
What are you going to do when you are living in poverty and hunger? Where are you going when you have no place to sleep? And who can help you when you need support and love? People who confront the terrible living conditions described above, ask these questions and bring these issues to society. However, Amos House, as one of the most effective and hopeful nonprofit social service agencies in Providence, Rhode Island, addresses these problems. According to the Amos House website, its mission is to help “build strong individuals and families, sustainable communities and responsible businesses.” Its services focus on the needs of the community in three different areas: basic needs, training & education programs, and programs of “businesses for good”.
Amos House was started in 1970 by Sister Eileen Murphy and it began as a small soup kitchen where she fed about 30 men per night. Now, it has grown into a comprehensive social service agency, which houses the largest soup kitchen in Rhode Island, feeding up to 800 people per day. Throughout its history, Amos House has strived to help people in every aspect of their lives, including basic needs, such as food, housing and social services. It serves men and women from all backgrounds, and individuals with the most significant challenges, including homelessness, addiction, and post-incarceration. The services of basic needs help people regain their dignity and integrity.
After meeting people’s basic needs, the training & education programs follow the main mission of Amos House, which are divided into three sections: Amos Carpentry & Weatherization Training Program, Amos Culinary Education Program, and Literacy Education. The Amos Culinary Education Program, created in 2002, is the most popular of its offerings. Jennifer Kodis, who works in the training & education department, explains the establishment of the first job training program shifted the model of Amos House from providing direct social services to teaching skills that could lead to sustainable employment, independence, and financial stability. Kodis said, “The idea for culinary training was chosen because we felt that was an area that we knew well considering that we were already running a soup kitchen.” Currently, the culinary program is very successful with 75 percent of its graduates being placed in jobs. One impressive story concerns executive chef, John Nelson, who was an Amos House client. He was a homeless alcoholic, who received help from Amos House, which changed his life. To give back to his community, he graduated from Amos House’s Culinary Arts Training Program, then became an Amos House chef and assisted in the kitchen for over 34 years now.
For its next major enterprise, Amos House began a Carpentry & Weatherization Training program in 2007. Its goal was to provide a different trade for people who were not interested in the culinary field. Nevertheless, Kodis indicated two challenges for this program are “One, the work is often seasonal, and another big challenge is that this industry often requires a driver’s license, vehicle, and tools. This is a barrier to many of our graduates.” It is also an important problem that Amos House intends to work on in the future. Amos House also offers a Literacy Education Program for adults, which has provided an alternative for adults seeking a high school equivalency diploma.
A next step for graduates, Amos House’s social enterprise “businesses for good”, is a branch of the training & education programs. This program contains two businesses: More Than a Meal Catering (MTAM) and Bristol Harbor Homemade Baking Mixes. MTAM Catering is a full service catering company that does corporate events, weddings, and family events. Bring revenue back into the program, it also provides internship and practical experience to current students in other programs. It was initially developed as a way to provide jobs to graduates as well. Typically, MTAM offers temporary jobs that serve as a stepping stone for recent graduates, but some graduates are hired on a permanent basis.
As a consequence, Amos House has positive impact on society, and specifically the South Providence area where it is located. By providing non-judgmental support to those who need it, it has given many people a second chance to have a better life. Individuals who struggle in bad living conditions and need help are served by the basic needs and various training programs. As a community of hope for those who have lost so much, Amos House was, and continues to be a response to the needs of society.