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Thursday, Nov 23, 2017
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Faith Café serves last lunch at Kennedy Blvd. site

TAMPA - Seated in front of a plate heaped with chicken, rice, squash and a thick slice of bread, along with bowl of little hotdogs, Robert Morgan stuck his fork in one of the hotdogs and ate it with one bite. "This is better than eating at McDonald's," said Morgan, 44, a homeless man who has come for free lunches to the Faith Café on Kennedy Boulevard for the past five years. Morgan was eating at the Kennedy Boulevard location for the last time. Those who run the café, which has served free meals six days a week since 2001, said today's lunch was the last at that location. The café, which serves dozens of people each day, already was planning a move to 1340 Clearview Ave., south of Interstate 275 and north of Cypress Street. By the end of the year, Café volunteers hope, they will be serving lunch for 80 to 120 in a new 2,600-square-foot Faith Café at that spot.
Last month Jim Mikes, who owns the 3207 W. Kennedy Blvd. property and had allowed the group to use the converted law office, asked the café's board of directors to leave the property by the end of July. The decision left café organizers in a quandary. Because the new facility is not scheduled to open until the end of the year, they worried about being able to feed people in the interim. Board member Tom Little said café leaders are negotiating with a downtown Tampa soup kitchen to set up a temporary café. "But we don't want to mention any specifics," he said. "We have already talked to four or five other organizations and thought we would be able to work something out, but things fell through each time." Little said the board will meet Tuesday and hopes to have a solution then. For William Nieberg, 49, who lives in a group home, the café is a lifesaver. "I have to eat to survive," said Nieberg, who said his life unraveled after a drunken-driving charge. "If it wasn't for this place, I wouldn't be alive." Nieberg said because he has a bicycle, he won't have a problem getting to wherever the café sets up. Not everyone eating lunch Saturday was as fortunate. "A lot of people won't be able to afford to take a bus to the new location," said Eric Williams, 48, who said he relies on the café for sustenance. For more information about the Faith Café, or to help, go to www.faithcafetampa.com.

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