Burgers and Bingo for ex-homeless

Many of the 75 residents of the Jan Rebelstraat facility in Nieuwe West have had problems with addiction, mental illness, or disabilities, but with help, they can start learning to live independently. A team of volunteers from Serve the City visited Jan Rebelstraat on a recent Saturday afternoon to serve a hamburger lunch and lead bingo games with residents.

Andressa, the project leader, volunteered along with her husband Jonas. They relocated to Amsterdam a few years ago. “I think it’s important to see other people’s realities and perspectives,” said Jonas, explaining why they chose this project. “When we volunteer, I think we benefit, even more than the clients. Every bit of joy we bring them is a reward.”

The residents were certainly happy about the hamburgers. The first batch disappeared in just a few minutes, so the volunteers cooked more until every burger was eaten.

Guno, who serves on the residents’ leadership board, gave the volunteers a tour and described how things work at Jan Rebelstraat. He has lived there for two years, and like other long-term residents, he has a small studio apartment with a bathroom and kitchen. As a member of the board, Guno helps residents who have questions or need support.

Guno explained that the program helps residents learn the skills they need to live on their own eventually. They can take classes and play games together, and many become friends and socialize in the common areas or each others’ rooms.

Heidi, another volunteer, relocated to Amsterdam just a few months ago, contacted Serve the City at the last minute, hoping to get a spot on a project. “I was looking for a way to contribute in my new community, and Serve the City told me to come to the project day kickoff. They said that sometimes people have to drop out, so there’s always space for another volunteer,” said Heidi.

“I get a sense of satisfaction from volunteering,” Heidi said. “I just feel warm and happy. I’m not working right now, so I can’t really donate money, but I think my time is more valuable anyway.”

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