A smiling Wayne Irish stood behind his nearly empty crock pot of bean & chicken soup after helping feed the homeless at Tuesday’s Soup In The Park. (Ernie Over photo)
(Riverton, Wyo.) – Wayne Irish is one of the lucky ones. A homeless man who had a rough upbringing in an abusive household, he began roaming the streets of Denver when he was just 12 years old.
“My mom was abusive and I left, ” he said Tuesday. “I spent the next six years out on the streets of Denver. It was tough and my life was a mess.”
Even though his family life was hard, something his mother did turned on a spark inside of him. Irish, you see, cooks the soup distributed to homeless men and women in Riverton on Tuesdays at city park.
“My mother started a program to bring soup to the homeless in Denver on Saturdays. She set up on Colfax Avenue near the Home Depot there. She did that to find out how I was doing, or to see me. My friends would tell her how I was,” he said.
Irish eventually moved from Denver and ended up in Casper at the Central Wyoming Rescue Mission because Denver had become too dangerous for him. From there he heard about Riverton’s Set Free Church and decided to come here. He’s been here three years now, and when he heard of the soup program, he knew he could help.
“When I came here, my life was out of control and I was homeless, but by the grace of God and people not giving up on me, I’m now using my skills to help other people, to put something warm in their bellies,” he said.
Irish cooked up a crock pot of beans for Tuesday’s homeless soup lunch. “I always cook beans, but today I added some chicken. Some kind of combination, beans and chicken,” he laughed. But it was good and the people at the park Tuesday noon kept coming back for more.
Irish’s soup is sometimes supplemented with food provided by the United Methodist Church, and others. Today the Volunteers of America-Northern Rockies (VOA) also brought a big pot of milk and potato soup, with bacon and vegetables.
“I hope that through this soup, people can see the light shine and maybe they can change their life too, like I did. It all comes from God.”
When asked what’s his favorite kind of soup, he didn’t hesitate. “Menudo, I love menudo,” he said. For those who don’t know, menudo is a soup traditionally made with honeycomb tripe, and either pigs feet, cow hooves or beef knuckles, along with seasonings and, sometimes, hominy.
“I met Dana (Flint,now with VOA) when I was at Set Free and she was working with the homeless. VOA does a lot for this community and now I’m helping, too.”