Bronx resident Marty Rogers, along with a dedicated group of volunteers, walks the mean streets of the South Bronx three times a week distributing much needed essentials like food, water, hats, and gloves to the homeless. The South Bronx, which stretches across roughly 42 miles, is the poorest borough in the city. According to data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, household incomes have continued to drop for three straight years, and almost 28% of families residing here lived below the poverty line in 2010.
With that stark reality facing many of the homeless and working-poor, Marty Rogers and his merry band of volunteers are truly a “God send”.
Over 40 years ago, the Bronx dad, along with his children and parishioners, began feeding the homeless during the Thanksgiving season by providing meals at their church.
About 2 years ago, a middle school student at Immaculate Conception asked one of his instructors what he could do to help the homeless within the borough. The school contacted Rogers and asked if he would help the student feed those in need.
Rogers organized “Hope Walks”, where every so often students and volunteers from the church would get together to make sandwiches to pass out to people in the neighborhood. They stopped and chatted with people, asking their names and making them feel comfortable. “By the end, we might be cracking jokes,” Rogers told CBS News.
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HOPE WALKS: Bronx dad Marty Rogers has always fed the homeless – but how, he's doing even more, by going on "hope walks" to hand out homemade food every week ❤️ https://t.co/abKNpbFarn pic.twitter.com/QtPeOU6OHO— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 10, 2021
When COVID-19 hit, Rogers knew that his borough would feel the brunt of the pandemic, and that he and his volunteers needed to step-up and increase their “Hope Walks”. Now they provide dozens of extra sandwiches to pass out at least three times a week, along with additional donations to pay for the food.
Rogers recently shared a heartwarming story about a homeless individual that he and his volunteer group had befriended, a woman named Virginia. She recently showed Rogers the key to her new apartment. “We were so thrilled,” Rogers told CBS News. “We didn’t help her do it, but maybe we played a small part. We’re some people that at least she can share the good news with, and we definitely celebrate with her.”
One Monday several weeks ago, the CBS News crew asked Rogers if they could tag along on one of their “Hope Walks.” Rogers, along with a few 8th graders from Immaculate Conception school, began their walk with shopping bags filled with sandwiches, cookies, water, and gloves. Every so often, they would stop to give out a sandwich or a bottle of water. In some instances, they just provided some kind words to a passerby.
“Our neighborhood has a lot of people who are homeless – and we insist it’s ‘people who are homeless.’ They’re not ‘homeless people,'” Marty said. “Some of the people are seniors; some of the people might have addiction issues. We don’t ask, it’s none of our business, it’s non-judgmental.”
Rogers went on to add, “But we know this about them, many of them, they’re all on the margins. And they all will benefit from a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a bottle of water, a hat or a pair of gloves and a cookie. And then, we always end with a little prayer and a blessing.”