Homeless people -- at least 260 of them -- trekked to the Hyatt Regency's glittering ballroom for a free meal. Surrounded by the trappings of luxury, they dined on turkey served from silver trays by the hotel's staff.
Yesterday, the Hyatt held its fourth annual luncheon for the homeless. Ross Kosking, the hotel's director of sales and marketing, said the hotel sponsored the luncheon as a community service. Hotel employees, many of whom had HTC volunteered to work on their day off, led the guests to tables decorated with fresh fruit. Each diner was given a bag with which to take away extra food.
Joyce Crawford showed up with her twin 14-month-old sons -- Jerrold and Jerrod. Crawford, 38, is a welder by trade, but she fell on hard times while on maternity leave.
Crawford said she planned to take only three months off from work, but she was forced to stay off much longer after one of her sons was hospitalized with a heart problem.
Crawford wants to return to work, but she cannot afford to pay for day care for the children. She said she moved in with a friend in West Baltimore so she could save a portion of her welfare check to pay for day care. But she and the children left that residence after her friend's boyfriend moved there. The situation just became too "confused," she said.
"I know I'm going to stay in a shelter for a while," she added as she fed the two boys from her plate. "You just make the best of a bad situation."
Once she gets back to work, she said, she'll be able to afford a place to live.
Another homeless person, Nadine Washington, said she has spent a week in the Midtown Churches Shelter at St. Mark's Lutheran Church at St. Paul Street and North Avenue. She and her four children moved there from a house they had been sharing with another family.
Washington said she left after another boarder moved into the house. She said the boarder abused drugs and stole her money. "I don't do drugs and I don't like being around people who do. I do Pepsi," she said with a smile.
She looked around the elegant ballroom with glass beads hanging from the lighting fixtures.
"My kids are going to be mad they missed this," she said.
William Johnson and his 9-year-old son, Michael, have been staying at St. Mark's for the last month.
They came to Baltimore from Washington "to make a new start," said the elder Johnson who previously sold jewelry on the streets of downtown Washington until his vendors' license became to expensive, he said.
He said he is now looking for work, but hasn't found any.
His son seemed to enjoy the service at the hotel. The staff served him three plates of mashed potatoes and gravy, and cake with chocolate icing.
"I'd like to stay here for 18 nights," said the boy.