By Timothy Long
(Knight-Rider) Phenix City, Ala. — The cafeteria of Suzy’s Soup Kitchen in downtown Phenix City has been packed to the rafters with hundreds of the area’s downtrodden and needy, day in and day out.
And while the soup kitchen receives no civic, state, or federal funding, Suzy’s is able to feed them without pause. In fact, Suzy’s has never had to turn anyone away. The cupboards are always well-stocked, and food is always cooking.
As the sign above the entrance to Suzy’s says, “Come in, and you will be fed. Leave, and you will be full.”
But despite Suzy’s efforts to win the war on hunger, the soup kitchen is drawing criticism from many of the area’s leading charity organizations and homeless advocacy groups for its controversial approach to funding.
What these critics want you to know is that there are literally two sides to Suzy’s success. On one side of the facility, a soup kitchen. On the other, a liquor store. Its name — Sousey Sue’s.
“It’s a disgrace,” says Cate Watershed, a member of Phenix City Families Against Famine. “The people behind this store don’t care about the homeless. They don’t care about the unfortunate. All they care about is making a profit, and they are willing to do it at the expense of society’s most needy.”
Not so, says the proprietor of the Suzy’s Soup Kitchen, Wyatt Duvall. “The homeless are people too. They have the same wants and needs that you and I have. They want food, which I give them for free. They also want to have a little fun, a little nip here and there. And we happily oblige.”
According to Erma Preston, chairperson for Concerned Citizens of Phenix City, Suzy’s Soup Kitchen goes against the very nature of charity. “We are supposed to be helping these people,” Preston says, “not adding to their misery.”
Dr. Jay Hamilton, a specialist in addiction at the Texas Institute of Technology, agrees. “Many of these individuals are where they are today, dependent on kitchens and shelters for their survival, because of an addiction. This so-called soup kitchen only contributes to their destructive tendencies. Mr. Duvall is the very definition of an enabler.”
Preston has even harsher words. “When you offer the afflicted a free meal and then ask for their dollar at the liquor store next door, it’s the same as giving a person an aspirin for a headache and then hitting them over the head with a mallet. What kind of help is that?” she asks.
Duvall disagrees, stating that he is lending a hand to society’s most needy. “There are several questions that need to be answered here. One, am I making a profit? The answer is ‘no.’ All money that Sousey Sue’s generates is used to fund Suzy’s Kitchen, after we cover payroll and our overhead costs, of course,” Duvall says. “And two, do these folks leave hungry? Once again, the answer is ‘no.’”
The businessman asserts that the people who work for groups like Phenix City Families Against Famine aren’t doing their part to help the unfortunate. “These people only care about the homeless and the poor when it doesn’t interfere with their soft-jazz brunches and their gala balls. Where are the men and women behind these so-called charity organizations when the sun goes down? At home sipping Scotch and feigning interest in PBS,” Duvall says. “I know what the homeless want, and I give it to them, in one convenience place, all day and all night. At Suzy’s and Sousey’s, we don’t abandon anybody. Not even the rich.”
According to Erma Preston, Concerned Citizens of Phenix City will begin hosting weekly protests at the soup kitchen while a march is being planned for later in the month. Duvall also says that if Suzy’s Soup Kitchen continues its success in Phenix City, he will open locations in other cities.