WEST GARFIELD PARK — The founder of a free soul food restaurant on the West Side is trying to get donations and volunteers to help him house people who are homeless during this winter’s bitter cold.
With shelters at reduced capacity due to the pandemic, Jermaine Jordan is raising money on GoFundMe so people experiencing homelessness can stay in hotels and keep safe through the coldest part of the winter. There have been times in the past week when it’s felt as cold as 25 below zero, endangering people who are homeless.
Jordan previously opened Healthy Hot Free Meals, a soul food restaurant at 4100 W. Madison St. that provides free food and groceries so people struggling during the pandemic can get by. The project is funded by donations and by revenue from a car wash Jordan owns.
Providing shelter and warmth is a priority for Jordan since the brutal Chicago cold can be deadly.
“It’s negative 3 degrees temperature out here and going to get colder tonight. I’m just trying to get them out of the cold and into a hotel,” he said.
Last winter, Jordan regularly dropped off meals to people living at homeless encampments on the West Side. When he went to visit an overpass on Kedzie where he’d dropped off food the day before, the area was blocked off with police tape. A man who Jordan had recently given food to had frozen to death, he said.
“It’s just heartbreaking to think about that guy. I was just talking to him 24 hours before,” Jordan said. “If I could do anything about it, if I can help it, I won’t let that happen again.”
So far, Jordan has rented 38 rooms to shelter those with nowhere to go. He has rented two vans and hired drivers to visit homeless encampments on the South and West sides to take people to stay at the hotels. Jordan provides three meals a day to those staying at the hotels.
Several people at the encampments he has visited across the recent cold snap have had hypothermia, so Jordan’s team has taken them to the hospital.
Jordan also started a Free Healthy Hot Meals on Wheels program that delivers hot food, groceries and toiletries to the encampments. Seniors, families with children, and anybody else in need of food can also get the food delivered by contacting Jordan on his website, healthyhotfreemeals.com.
Jordan started the delivery program after hearing from people who had difficulty getting to his free soul food restaurant.
“They would come to the restaurant but they don’t have no way to get there. … People don’t have transportation,” he said.
Jordan is looking for donations and volunteers to prepare and deliver food. To donate, visit the GoFundMe for Free Healthy Hot Meals. To volunteer, visit Jordan’s website, email him at Eatdaily@healthyhotfreemeals.com, or text him at 773-575-1745.
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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