Photos and text by Barbara Haddock Taylor
“I love it. It’s a blessing,” says Tyrone Black, a resident of southwest Baltimore, as he enjoys a hearty casserole while chatting with a friend in one of the dining rooms at Viva House, a soup kitchen at 26 S. Mount Street.
Viva House was founded in 1968 by Brendan Walsh and Willa Bickham, a husband and wife team who are part of the Catholic Worker movement. For nearly 50 years, with the help of dozens of dedicated volunteers, they serve hundreds of nourishing meals every Wednesday and Thursday in an atmosphere of friendship and dignity.
The world outside the soup kitchen can be harsh and unforgiving, but inside Viva House, visitors find hospitality, love and acceptance.
“It is amazing that even after almost half a century we are still standing. Often people ask ‘has your work been successful?’ The simple answer is that we have not achieved success the way most people define it. However, we have not given up our hope. That is our success,” said Brendan Walsh.
(For more information on Viva House and their neighborhood, Brendan and Willa have chronicled their experience in a book called “The Long Loneliness In Baltimore: Stories Along the Way”)