For 25 years, they have called her The Chicken Lady. That’s because neighborhood resident BETTY BRAMBLE has become known among the homeless community as the woman who serves them chicken — usually bucketfuls of the fried variety, plus whatever else she can find.
How did this begin?
I tell you what — I was going to a church, and I heard some people were feeding the homeless, and I thought, ‘Well, I could bring something,’ and I started bringing food. Then I began feeding them under a big bridge Downtown, and one of the homeless came by and said, ‘You know that church that feeds us on Friday stopped?’ And I thought, ‘You know what, I’ll do it — if it’s just a candy bar or whatever, I’ll do it.’
Where did you take the food?
I used to feed about 500 in front of the day resource center, but then the city closed the day resource center down and The Bridge was finally built. [The city] wanted everyone to come to The Bridge, and told us if we continued to feed within the perimeter, they would ticket us $200 to $2,000.
Did that stop you?
Now I go by The Bridge and start crying. I love them and miss them. Hopefully it will be back like it used to be, but I don’t know. I just keep on keeping on, and I’m still feeding. Last Saturday I saw people from the interstate living in the bushes and the fields, and went down to try to find them. They’re living in the woods, and I couldn’t walk down there, and got as close as I could. I feed people in deserted buildings and give out groceries to families, if they need it. When they move into apartments and until they get their food stamps, they might need it.
Some people might disagree with your tactics.
Yes, they think, ‘These guys can get a job, and you’re just facilitating them,’ but yet they don’t realize that some of these people have lost their jobs, especially the way the economy is now. One man, his wife was killed, so he just gave up. There are people with mental problems — bipolar, schizophrenic, depression, drugs or alcohol, the whole gamut. If I see somebody and I can meet a need, why not?
What motivates you?
There is scripture that says, if I see my brother in need and shut up my heart from him, how does the love of God abide inside of me? It’s not only food, but it’s love. People look down upon them, but I would greet them, hug them, give them a kiss on the cheek. Sometimes people would come and say, ‘You know, I’m not hungry but could I have a hug?’
Do you always feed them chicken?
I’ve always taken fried chicken. When I fed Downtown, I would have six tables full of food — chicken, homemade mashed potatoes, green beans, yellow squash, okra and salads, dessert, and bread and drinks. Somebody told me one time, ‘Well, Betty, just feed them a sandwich.’ I said, ‘No, if we were serving the president of the United States, would we feed them a sandwich?’
Where do you get your food?
It’s totally by faith. It’s whatever I can come up with and some of my money, but you can’t do this alone, so I thank God for the people who have helped. You always need help. At the last minute sometimes, when I needed things, there it would be. Pam [Spell, Norma’s Café manager], she would give me a pot of beans every time I asked, and sometimes other leftover stuff. They were so generous whenever they had anything.
You seem extremely generous, too.
Don’t give me any credit — to God be the glory. I’m grateful that God gave me an opportunity to do something to reach out and touch people.
To donate food or help to The Chicken Lady’s cause, call 214.942.0343.