Empty Bowls is on for March 4, 2021!

Great news, one and all. Empty Bowls is going virtual for 2021 and tickets are on sale now! There will still be soup to slurp, a scrum for top-notch bowls and more of the Empty Bowls traditions you’ve come to love! In fact, this year, we have a special program lined up that will take you behind the scenes of UMD to see how the work of fighting poverty and providing food, shelter and a future to neighbors in need takes place every day. We want to invite you to see up close how your generosity, partnership and advocacy make a real impact. So, save the date: Thursday, March 4th. 

We’ll kick-off on March 1st @ 9am with a week-long Online Auction of signature, one-of-a-kind bowls that you’ll love! The auction runs through March 5th @ 5pm. For a flat $25, your ticket this year will be for one 12 oz. meal-size portion of soup available for pickup from one of our participating restaurants: Boricua Soul, Bull City Burger & Brewery, Bull City Solera and TaproomJack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter, Mad Hatter Café + Bakeshop, Mez, Pompieri PizzaSaladelia Café, and Toast. Please be sure to frequent these wonderful UMD partners often. And finally, the evening of March 4th, we will broadcast an online presentation hosted by long-time Empty Bowls emcee Jatovi McDuffie. Heat your delicious soup and cozy up to your laptop or tablet to join us for a can't-miss community gathering. For once, UMD will be coming to YOUR HOUSE.

None of this would be possible, of course, without our generous sponsors. Indeed, it was the enthusiasm of last year's top sponsors that gave us confidence early on to move forward with this year's plans. So, great thanks to The Forest at Duke -- Our Presenting Sponsor, and Area Sponsors: The Bart Ehrman FoundationOlive & Olive and RTI International. Other sponsors have also committed and YOU can join them! There is a range of giving levels with commensurate perks. Learn more by clicking here. If you like what you see, just download one of our sponsorship agreement forms and follow the instructions. There are two versions based on giving levels: Metals ($1,500 and up) and Small Business-Individual ($500 and $350 respectively). 

We know that everyone is frustrated by our inability to gather together the way we'd like. Human beings are social animals. But helping to sponsor Empty Bowls is a tangible way to reconnect with your UMD family and support the work you care so deeply about. There is hope ahead, and your generosity will help it arrive even sooner for those we serve. Thanks so much. 

There's no place like home

Due to COVID-19, UMD has had to dramatically reduce our shelter's capacity from 149 beds to 83 and move medically fragile residents to private rooms at the Carolina-Duke Inn. This has only increased the need to help clients secure permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible. What an incredible opportunity to make a difference for men, women and children working to restart their lives during a pandemic! There are three ways you can support this effort:

  1. Donate airbeds, mattresses, twin and full sheets, pillows and pillowcases to UMD. People need shelter, but they also need a bed. Items can be new or gently used. Drop off at the lobby of 410 Liberty Street under the purple awning, Monday through Friday between 10 am and 4 pm. Some of these items are also listed on our Amazon Wishlist for quick order and delivery.
  2. Open your doors. Do you have a rental property or another space that can be made available for temporary or permanent housing? Or can you connect us to someone who does have these resources? Housing does NOT have to be local. The majority of our clients will need rental units around $600 or less per person per month. Please contact Clinical Director Valerie Haywood by calling or texting her at 919-459-7220 (preferred) or emailing her at vhaywood@umdurham.org.
  3. Contribute to Project ROOF (Removing Obstacles to Occupancy Funds). These funds will be used to assist with rental deposits, first month’s rent, utility hook-ups, transportation to identified housing and other needs directly tied to housing homeless neighbors as quickly as possible. Make a gift online and put “ROOF” in the dedication or send a check to UMD at PO Box 249, Durham, NC 27702 with memo line “ROOF."

Addressing food insecurity

Throughout the pandemic, UMD has continued to provide hot meals for homeless and hungry individuals in Durham. Our costs have climbed due to the need to package most meals to-go and to purchase more takeout-friendly foods, as well as to employ a nonprofit catering service to furnish meals to residents staying in hotels/motels. Clients who are sheltered on campus may use our cafe, which now features protective barriers on tables and the serving line, new cleaning procedures and limited seating to promote safety. Meal times at UMD are:


  • Breakfast and bag lunch pickup 8–9 a.m.
  • Dinner 6-7 p.m.

Saturday, Sunday and Holidays

  • Breakfast 9:30-10:30 a.m.
  • Lunch 12:30-1:30 p.m.
  • Dinner 6-7 p.m.

In August, UMD resumed food distribution to the community thanks to our partnership with the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, as well as a new collaboration with Sankofa Farms. Shelf-stable and fresh food are pre-packaged for contactless pick up every Tuesday from 10 am to noon in County Parking Lot #13, at the corner of Queen and Liberty streets. We have been serving an average of 150 households per week. Customers may briefly park in Lot #13 to pick up their allotment and should be prepared to open their trunk. Walk-up customers are also welcome. Mask-wearing is required.Please contact vbaker@umdurham.org or 919-682-0538 to make large donations of non-perishable food. 

An update on clothing distributions: Due to COVID-19, we are meeting the need for clothing, diapers and hygiene items on a case-by-case basis. We look forward to when we can safely resume regular operations for our Clothing Closet and Food Pantry. 

Amazon Wish List and Cash Donations

We have created an Amazon Wish List for our COVID-19 preparations. Please click on the link to purchase some of these critical supplies. Items will be shipped directly to our campus, and all gifts are tax-deductible. As a result of the pandemic, we're also incurring a number of unplanned expenses, including for extra staff to properly supervise shelter operations offsite. You can help us offset these costs by making a cash gift to UMD.

Please continue to monitor your email for updated information from us, as news becomes available. If you are not subscribed to our email communications, please sign up by contacting us at devel@umdurham.org

For accurate, up-to-date COVID-19 information, continue to check the NCDHHS, CDC and Durham County Department of Public Health websites, and follow these agencies on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @ncdhhs, @cdcgov & @durhamhealthnc.

As always, thank so much for your generous support.


In Fiscal Year 2019-20, we made a difference for 6,304 neighbors in need

UMD connects with the community to end homelessness and fight poverty by offering food, shelter and a future to neighbors in need. We are THE public shelter for single adults in Durham and the back-up shelter for families. UMD will assist anyone in need, regardless of race, ethnicity, religious belief or non-belief, sexual orientation, gender or gender identification, or disability. We offer practical help and genuine hope to shelter residents and community clients through our:

Community Shelter for men, women and children who need a safe emergency place to sleep. We offer case management to all shelter clients to help them create an individualized plan for obtaining permanent housing and sufficient income to remain independent. We have a robust workforce development program to help residents enhance their skills and secure gainful employment, often despite barriers such as long periods of unemployment, medical and mental health problems, past criminal convictions and addiction. We sheltered 804 individuals this past year. 

Community Café, which serves three free meals a day, seven days a week to shelter guests and anyone in Durham who is hungry. We served 241,051 meals in FY 2019-20.

Food Pantry and Clothing Closet, which distribute groceries, clothing, diapers and hygiene products to more than 500 households per month to help those with extremely limited means make ends meet. We assisted 519 households per month this past year before COVID-19 forced us to suspend operations for several months. As noted above, modified food distribution resumed in August.



Play SPENT, our online game about surviving poverty

Launched by McKinney in 2011, SPENT has been played more than 10 million times across the globe. The goal of the game: Start with $1,000 and make the decisions necessary to reach the end of the month with something still left in your pocket. We wish you luck. 







410 Liberty Street, Durham, NC 27701 | (919) 682-0538

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