Outside, the steel sky started spitting wet snow, but in a downtown Spokane church, 100 homeless men and women watched the Super Bowl in comfort and waited for a hot meal.
Every Sunday for more than a year, the First Covenant Church has offered the city’s down and out a short respite from the struggle on the streets.
“Most suffered some kind of setback and didn’t have family to fall back on,” said the Rev. Rob Bryceson, First Covenant’s pastor.
Many of his guests are working at least part time, trying to pull themselves out of the hole they’ve fallen into.
“One foot out is not enough,” Bryceson said, comparing homelessness to quicksand. “The foot that’s stuck keeps sucking you back in.”
At First Covenant Church, 212 S. Division St., the homeless can spend Sunday afternoons watching football like people with living rooms. For the duration of a game, they can worry about whether the Packers will hold off a Steelers rally rather than where their next meal is coming from.
In the church kitchen, Tonya Bryceson, the pastor’s wife, prepares chicken wings, rice, fried zucchini and fruit salad. Most weeks she spends $200 to $250 out of church coffers on the dinner. The Union Gospel Mission also helps out by donating food.
How much longer First Covenant can afford to maintain the Sunday dinners is very much in doubt.
Bryceson said the 122-year-old church is living on borrowed time. First Covenant only has about 50 congregants and a third of them are homeless, he said.
How many people show up for Sunday dinner depends on what time of the month it is. More than 200 showed up last Sunday, even with no game on television, because it was the end of the month. Many of First Covenant’s diners get a government disability check at the first of the month and are able to check into a cheap motel until their money runs out.
Others remain in shelters or under bridges and overpasses.
Steve Dodson has been sleeping at the House of Charity since he got laid off last summer. A chef by trade, he’s hoping to get a job cooking on an Alaskan fishing boat in the spring.
Dodson said he’s a Miami Dolphins fan, but Sunday he was rooting for the Steelers because “that’s my mom’s team.”
Not in the market for an Audi, or even a Chevy, he was paying more attention to his wings than the television commercials.
Neither Dodson nor Michael Baesman, his buddy from the shelter, was likely to rush out and buy any of the commodities advertised during the Super Bowl at a cost of $6 million per minute of air time.
“Maybe some Doritos,” said Baesman.