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Going mobile to feed homeless youth
KINGSTON — One man’s quest to start a homeless meal service and shelter in Kingston has raised hopes and eyebrows.
Marcus Croman, 35, plans to serve his first meal April 3 out of a converted ambulance he bought this March. He’ll eventually serve six meals a week, specifically to homeless youth. Croman also has plans to augment his mobile service with a rescue shelter in Kingston.
Service and faith-based organizations, have wondered whether the Kingston Rescue Mission’s work will overlap theirs.
“Most people I’ve talked to aren’t even aware there’s a problem,” Croman said. “If they did I think there’d be a huge effort to end it, that’s just the kind of town this is.”
Croman, who grew up in Kingston and now works in technical support in Seattle, was looking for a community service project and was inspired by a series of articles on homeless youth in the North Kitsap Herald.
The stories reported that as many as 100 students in North Kitsap School District are homeless, noting many are couch surfing. Some have left broken homes.
Croman has a checkered past of his own. At 19 he was convicted of possessing stolen property, a class C felony. In 2005 he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence, a charge he said arose from an incident in which he spanked a child. The assault occured during a tumultuous breakup with his ex-wife and he is working to have it expunged from his record, he said.
He believes his life lessons can help him connect with troubled youth.
“I’ve been where some of these kids are,” Croman said. “I feel like I’m in a unique position to help them.”
After deciding to start a shelter, Croman looked at several locations in Kingston but found landlords were leery of allowing a shelter in their buildings. Instead, Croman bought a 1993 ambulance, which he will use to distribute sandwiches, fruit and other food that will be prepared in Little City Catering, owned by his mother, Mimi Smith-Danielson.
The Kingston Rescue Mission is pending as a federally recognized nonprofit organization, Croman said. It is registered with the state as a corporation and he’s working toward making it a certified charity in Washington. Croman recently became a bishop through a Seattle Universalist church and he’ll offer non-denominational ministerial services in Kingston. He wants to keep his homeless services separate from his ministerial work.
Expenses for the shelter, such as the ambulance purchase, have come mostly from his own pocket. His Web site for the project, www.kingstonrescue.org, is set up to receive donations through a PayPal account, but Croman said he hasn’t taken money through the site yet.
He is also looking for volunteers and a volunteer coordinator. He estimates it will take 30 to 40 volunteers to distribute six meals each week.
Croman and his family will begin taking the ambulance to areas of North Kitsap where he’s heard the homeless congregate, including the Point No Point Casino and the Billy Johnson Skatepark. Statistics on homeless youth in the Kingston area are difficult to verify. Only about 3 percent of clients at the ShareNet food bank declare themselves as homeless.
But North Kitsap Fishline Client Services Coordinator Rae Rodriguez said it can be especially hard to get homeless teens to come to food banks, so their numbers are hard to substantiate. Rodriguez hadn’t heard of Croman’s effort, but she sees a need for a mobile soup kitchen in the North End.
The Bremerton Rescue Mission, headed by Poulsbo’s Larry Cooney, will also begin operating its own mobile meal service in North Kitsap in April, Rodriguez said.
ShareNet Executive Director Mark Ince was at first concerned Croman’s services would overlap with the work of his group and the Kingston Food Bank, spreading donations even more thin. After speaking with Croman, Ince said he doesn’t think there will be any conflict.
Croman said he isn’t looking to step on toes.
“There’s no need for another food bank,” he said. “There are two in town and they do a great job.”