Food supply and community building at the Vincent Gate in Hildesheim, Germany

Vincentian Family Projects / Food supply and community building at the Vincent Gate in Hildesheim, Germany

Food supply and community building at the Vincent Gate in Hildesheim, Germany

The Vinzenzpforte at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Mercy of St. Vincent de Paul in Hildesheim is more than just a place where needy people who have been hurt by life can get breakfast and lunch. It is a place of encounter and community building.

In “normal times” the Vinzenzpforte is open from Monday to Friday from 9:00-14:00. It is a room at the Motherhouse with 3 large tables where 30 people can sit comfortably. Two sofas for resting and sleeping and a bookcase complete the room. A sanitary area with toilets and showers as well as a kitchen also are part of the facilities.

Usually, more than 40 people come here every day to eat, sleep, shower, play and chat. For many of our visitors, time spent at the Vinzenzpforte is part of their daily routine. Breakfast and lunch are the daily times when people eat together and share life together. This is exactly what the Vinzenzpforte is all about, shared life. Whether it is the director of the Gate, a trainee, a volunteer or a visitor, everyone sits at the same table, eats the same food and is part of the community.

But the Corona crisis suddenly changed all that. As a room that is comfortable for 30 people, where often 40 people crowd around the tables, it was clear that we had to close the room for the protection of our visitors and staff.

We are now protected from the virus, but how can we address material hardship, loneliness and isolation? The Gate of St. Vincent may be closed as a building, but the heart of it, the Community, and also the food supply had to be maintained, that was immediately clear.

Since 16 March 2020 we have been serving food at the door of the Vinzenzpforte. Always at lunchtime from 12:30 – 14:00 you can get milk, bread, cold cuts, coffee, hot lunch in plastic tins and much more. It has become a supermarket where you can “shop” without money. The garden in front of the Gate of St. Vincent is big enough to be able to talk with some distance, to hear how another person is doing, to ask where support is needed. Those who are troubled by loneliness can leave their telephone number and, in the mornings, they will be called by someone from our team. That is what we are here for, every morning. We do not leave the Vinzenzpforte; we take phone calls and we call our visitors ourselves.

Two of our visitors had said from the beginning of the crisis that they would not come to the food distribution because for them the most important thing was the togetherness, and they wouldn’t come just to get food. But now they call two or three times a week, let us know how they’re doing, ask how the others are doing and leave greetings.

We are still closed on weekends. But even during these days we try to promote the spirit of community. Sometimes the sisters bake biscuits and hang words of encouragement on the bag; sometimes they bring flower seeds and a flower pot full of soil. We try to make the solidarity clear.

From the beginning of the crisis we have been sharing our activities in the newspaper and other social media. We have experienced a great outpouring of solidarity. People bring us food to distribute, sew face masks for us to protect each other, write us mails to give us strength.

The community has been changed by the Corona crisis, but it has not become smaller or less valuable. The togetherness that has been allowed to grow over the years is being put to the test, but it shows day by day how valuable it is. We carry each other through this time.

How can I help?

Responsible for the project:

Sisters of Mercy of St. Vincent de Paul in Hildesheim

Neue Str. 6 – 31134 Hildesheim (Germany) - +49-5121-109-800

Information and donations:


April 23, 2020


FamVin Covid-19 projects