Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Cafe Ministry for Homeless

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Cafe Ministry for Homeless

Article excerpt

The sign outside may read The Open Door, but make no mistake, the name of the cafe is His Open Door.

The cafe is the ministry of Tammy Burns; her heart's burden, she said, is to serve Sarasota's homeless with dignity and respect. Tall and slender, Burns is a physician's wife and a long-time member of South Shore Community Church.

She has neither the time nor inclination for traditional lady of leisure pursuits; her short nails sport chipped blue polish, her face devoid of make-up, Burns rises each morning with one goal -- serve the Lord through homeless ministry.

"I've been in homeless ministry for 12 years," Burns said. "I just have a heart for those that others don't want to acknowledge."

With the help of her church, Burns worked with the Salvation Army and fought for the success of His Open Door.

The city was concerned that she not duplicate existing services, so her cafe is open at rather odd times: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday from 5 to 7:30 a.m.; Wednesday evenings from 5 to 7:30 p.m. for church service; Saturday, streaming live church service from 5 to 7:30 p.m., and each Sunday she serves a meal from 1:45 to 4 p.m. in the cafe parking lot.

She has, she said, been shut down a few times.

"We had folks sleeping outside and another time they were 'lighting up,'" Burns said. It was difficult to communicate the importance of following the rules, but once her customers understood, they began to police themselves.

"Now, if someone is doing something that will cause us to have a problem, they tell each other 'hey, you can't do that here,'" Burns said. The homeless have come to respect and appreciate the cafe, she added.

"They want us to be open, so they help."

The cafe's name is a derivative of Matthew 7:7, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

The space is warm and inviting; Burns is still decorating, but scriptures -- John 3:16, Philippians 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:7 -- line the soft blue walls.

Olive Garden has donated chairs and table tops, another benefactor donated table stands.

First Watch and Brian Mahoney at Coffee Time Services support the cafe with donations as well, but Burns said that great need abounds. …

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