Last saturday, dozens of homeless people in Kralingen enjoyed a festive three-course meal at the Havenzicht night shelter and care centre on Willem Ruyslaan. Every year, the students of the student association Laurentius cook up a tasty dinner for Kralingen’s homeless in the dark, wintry period around Christmas.

In a belated Christmas spirit, the students got together to treat Kralingen’s homeless to a luxurious dinner. “Let’s be honest: compared to the homeless, most students have it relatively easy,” says Léon Vervooren, one of Laurentius’ board members and coordinator at Stichting Voormekaar, one of the association’s permanent committees.

Steak roulade with risotto

At the centre, Havenzicht’s regular residents and those homeless people fortunate enough to draw a lot for a bed that evening were treated to home-made vegetable soup with meatballs, steak roulade and risotto and pancakes served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. “We opted for dishes that were rich in vitamins, with lots of vegetables and healthy herbs and spices such as courgette, green peas, leek, onion, garlic, rosemary and bay leaves,” says student and chef Rogi Louter.

“It’s all equally delicious!” yells one of the guests, who has just finished his bowl of soup. “It’s a good change from the regular microwave meals or ten sandwiches in one day.” Another guest tells us that sometimes, he goes without food for days on end: “That’s why I really look forward to dinners that are organised for us like this. It’s nothing less than a feast.”

Addiction and divorce

In-between courses, students mingle and talk with the diners. According to Léon, the objective is to create a sense of community. “We decided on a dinner, because when you get together around a table to eat you can really chat.” They discuss the kinds of situations that can overwhelm you to the point that you end up without a roof over your head: from addictions to divorce to debt relief programmes that come too late to help. But also how grateful the homeless are with the help they receive in Rotterdam. “You really feel that everyone’s doing their best to help us – which is really special,” says Johan Nikkel (43).

“Anyone up for a second helping?” asks a student carrying a big pan of soup in her hands. The main course follows soon after, and some of her fellow students are already frying pancakes for dessert. In the kitchen, someone yells that the students shouldn’t forget to eat something themselves too.

Stichting Voormekaar

Founded by the student association Laurentius, Stichting Voormekaar organises a number of activities for disadvantaged groups in Rotterdam every year. In addition to organising an annual dinner for the homeless, the foundation also organises play days for children with disabilities and walking days for the elderly.