Fed with Faith: Where Hope and Compassion Reign
A life transformed, one man’s journey leads to honoring God by feeding and caring for the homeless.
One Man’s Journey
At 50, Jean Manganaro knows firsthand what it’s like to be homeless. Just before his 16th birthday, he came home to find his parents had left and abandoned him. He came from a dysfunctional family where there was abuse and alcohol. Wandering through the streets of South Florida, he sought scraps and shelter where he could, but there was no place for kids to stay or programs that he could turn to for help. Drugs and alcohol provided temporary oblivion, but his troubles soon found him in juvenile hall.
Years passed as his life stagnated in the streets with dependency on substance abuse. At age 29, he turned his life over to God finding strength to become sober. He attended a 12-step meeting and met a man who offered him a place to live. Manganaro was given two weeks free rent but had to find a job during that time and start paying rent at the end of the two-week period. He found a job that same day.
It was a starting point; his life began to turn around. Today, he is happily married to Wendy and they have a son who is also involved with helping homeless children and started Fed with Faith for Kids.
Another Man’s Hope
The effect of years spent living in the streets were enmeshed within Manganaro’s person. He would never forget what life was like on the streets —the fear, biting cold, gnawing hunger. He decided to return to it … but this time, by helping others who roam the streets as he did.
In 2013, Manganaro and Wendy founded Fed with Faith based in Louisville, Kentucky. The non-profit organization provides free meals and living assistance to the homeless. Their main focus is helping at-risk 18- to 24-year-olds, but also serve families, street youth, runaways, and the general homeless.
At first, Fed with Faith served 100 meals a day, delivering them directly to where the homeless lived beneath overpasses, in the woods, and along alleys. Today, they serve 500 meals a day, all sustained by donations and volunteers.
The organization advocates on behalf of the homeless for treatment and services within local agencies and companies. “We do street-based education and outreach, informing clients of emergency shelters, and help with gaining them mental health services,” says Manganaro. Fed with Faith gives aid with food, water, tents, sternos, bug repellant, and more – everything one would need to survive outside while waiting for housing or services.
“We are the agency that goes to the calls for help at hospitals when a house-less person is in crisis,” he says. Fed with Faith also does follow up support for families that get into housing by providing food boxes for the first six months, allowing time to adjust to indoor living and the expenses associated with that. They also provide bus tickets and advocate for individuals with employment opportunities. Fed with Faith also coordinates with other local outreach services like My Dog Eats First and Exit 0.
As benevolent as feeding the homeless is, Manganaro wanted to do more for them. In 2016, he embarked on a mission to provide shelter for the homeless and purchased a building sorely in need of repairs. Volunteers assisted in renovating the place, turning it into a comfortable living space. In 2017, Gratitude House opened its doors with room for 33 residents, primarily those who come out of local detox centers and are in need of structured addiction recovery-based living. The structure includes a common room to hold AA and NA meetings, life skills classes, and bible studies.
“We take in the people nobody wants, including those with pets,” he says. Each resident is required to pass a drug test and then follow the rules of the shelter. Like the deal Manganaro was offered, each resident is given two weeks to find a job and two weeks after that, start paying $85 a week to stay in the shelter.
It’s a typical Sunday afternoon in the gymnasium at Beargrass Christian Church in Louisville, not for shooting hoops but preparing hundreds of meals to be delivered to the homeless. Fed with Faith volunteers are busy cooking, sorting, packing, and prepping bags and boxes of food. It takes about two hours to distribute 300 meals, but the volunteers do more than just hand out food and other essentials. They form relationships with the homeless, getting to know them, hear their stories, and learn of their needs. They help direct the homeless to local services and shelters, assisting as many as possible.
The reality of homelessness really hits home when you have one-on-one contact with them. In an interview with local news station WHAS, Wendy described an all too familiar encounter, “I served two guys last night who said, ‘I don’t know where I’m going, we’re just newly homeless.’ We had to show them how to light a sterno, give them a tent, a sleeping bag, they just don’t know … two people who were pretty much brand new, not the right clothing and it was 5 below. One young man was so scared and asked, ‘you’re not the police?’.”
In 2016, Manganaro was honored with a Local Jefferson Award in recognition for having a positive impact on his community. You can watch him receive the award and the work he does here …
Manganaro maintains the homeless live in a hostile environment. “Everywhere they go, nobody wants them there. Whether it’s a store, someone will follow them to see if they are stealing something. Whether it’s the library steps, they don’t want them standing out there. Whether it’s the park, ‘we don’t want you out here because it’s tourist season. We don’t have a homeless problem here in Louisville. Look at all the shelters we have.’ These individuals live in a hostile environment at all times,” he says.
“So, for them to get someone who cares and loves them is a big piece of what we do. It’s to mirror God’s love and God’s compassion and that’s why we’re here,” says Manganaro fighting back tears.
Homelessness in America stems back to colonial times. It is up to communities and selfless individuals like Manganaro to help their fellow man. His mission is rooted in faith and it is faith that sustains him and the outreach of his organization. Learn more at fedwithfaith.org.