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How to survive in New York City if you're broke and homeless

Updated on October 1, 2014

Free food in NYC

Anybody can lose a job, home or just be on the edge of starvation. The city is too expensive these days. Rents are all the way up to the sky and healthy cheap food is harder and harder to find. If you ever find yourself hopeless and in despair, don't be afraid. There are tons of places, centers and churches that will offer services - from food and clothes to shelters. In this article we're going to focus on places where you can eat for free and we're going to do it day by day to make it easier for you. In the same places you can ask the staff or volunteers for other services too. So, here we go folks!

Monday. Lunch from around 11 am to 1 pm in Holy Apostles church in 28th Street and 9th Avenue, Manhattan. If you come at about 12 there should be no line and you can go right in. Dinner at 7 pm in the All Souls church. There's always a line. But now they have an express line which gets you right in at 7 sharp and you have to leave by 7:30, which is a good deal.

Tuesday. You can choose between Holy Apostles, which by the way has lunch at the same time Monday to Friday, or you can try something different and go to St. James on 71st Street and Madison Avenue at 12pm. No line, you go right in, sit and get served. Dinner is served at 6pm in Jan Hus Presbyterian Church at 74th Street and First Avenue. They also give out weekly food pantry (and monthly pantry, depending on whether you have a place to cook) and clothing once a week.

Wednesday. Good day to check out Temple Shaaray Tefila on 79th Street and Second Avenue at 12pm. This synagogue offers nice lunch but the only problem is that you will have to leave your bags (if you have any on you) outside the door. There is a security in the front, but your things are definitely not the safest left outside among a pile of other people's bags where only one security guard is looking over them. So, try not to carry any bags with you, or keep anything of value in them, when dining in here. At 4:30 pm there's another lunch (or dinner) at National Council of Jewish Women on 72nd Street and Broadway. Dinner is served in Church of the Epiphany on 74th Street and York Avenue at 7pm.

Thursday. Again, there's an option of Holy Apostles, or trying something new. And we definitely encourage you to try something new first and then decide where to dine in future. At 11.30 am there's a lunch at St. Paul's on 59th Street and 8th Avenue. Be aware of an elder volunteer named Roland, however. If you look clean and do not give away any signs of being homeless or broke (even though you are), he might skip you when giving out sodas for example, or if he's giving out tickets for the big banquet that is held once a year in the same place, you might not get it, unless you ask for it. Twice. Dinner is served at 7pm in Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church on 73rd Street and Madison.

Friday. At noon we go back to All Souls but with less crowd. In the evening it's St. James again but a completely different set up. As much as it was a breeze getting in on Tuesday, Friday evenings are a bit of a torture, especially if it gets cold. The woman running the soup kitchen called Faith makes people wait outside sometimes for about half an hour or so, because she is keeping track of every single person who steps in, writing down names and last names of everyone. You might as well say your name is Donald Duck, she will write it down and the next time you come you will have to wait until she calls your name. If you come often enough you get a ticket, which gives you an advantage over other mortals waiting outside. But if not, you depend on Faith.

Saturday. The day with the biggest number of lunches. First there's a lunch at 12 in the Church of the Village on 13th Street and 7th Avenue. Then there's lunch from 1 to 3 in St. Joseph's on West 4th Street. And then there's lunch in the Village Temple on 12th Street and University Place at 2:30. After that, if you can still eat (or if you missed some of these) you can head towards 88th Street and 2nd Avenue to the Church of the Holy Trinity and have dinner at around 5 pm.

Sunday. At around 11 am we're back at the National Council of Jewish Women for a nice lunch. There's a line here always and it's good to come earlier because the place is very tiny. Dinner is served in Christ Church located on 60th Street and Lexington Avenue. Doors open at about 4:30 pm and they start serving food at around 5 - 5:15.

As addition to all these places, there's a collision van going around the city hitting different spots to give out soups, sandwiches, oranges and milk every evening between 8:30 and 9. The location we know is the one on 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue, right at the entrance to Central Park. Be there early, because they make short stops.

That's it for now, ladies and gentlemen. As one of the frequent visitors to these dining places once told me "You can't starve in New York!".




NYC - city you can't starve in.
NYC - city you can't starve in.

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