Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“You work with Jesus!”
Point this out to one of the staff members at St. Patrick Center, with respect to their work with people who experience homelessness, and you’ll likely to get a twofold reply. First, an enthusiastic affirmation: “Yes!” Second, an important qualification born from long experience: “But … He’s pretty well disguised.”
The glorious truth of Jesus dwelling in each person, and the gritty realities involved when that person is experiencing homelessness — that’s a great example of the Catholic “both/and” approach to the world. In embracing and addressing both the glorious truth and the gritty reality, St. Patrick Center is a great example of who the Church is and what the Church does.
Pope Francis encourages us to go to the peripheries, to find and serve Jesus there in our brothers and sisters. Lest we think that means going far away, he reminds us in his recent encyclical: “Some peripheries are close to us” (“Fratelli Tutti,” 97). St. Patrick Center’s mission is a great example of a periphery that’s right in our midst — literally in the heart of our city.
One of St. Patrick Center’s guiding principles is: housing first. Yes, they address the immediate needs of people for things like food and medical care. But they also understand that housing is the hub of a wheel. If you don’t get the hub in place, it’s almost impossible for the spokes to get properly aligned, no matter how much you work on them. When the hub is secured, other things like food, medical care and employment can fall into stable place. So, for example, their Hospitals to Housing program which recently saved hospitals almost $400,000 by putting housing first. Addressing the immediate needs as well as the structural needs in people’s lives — that’s Catholic Social Teaching in action.
St. Patrick Center is also careful to avoid another structural pitfall: reducing a person to mere passivity. Instead, while helping people get on their feet, the St. Patrick Center also helps them learn the skills they need to stand on their own. This involves a massive effort that includes case workers, teachers, landlords, employers and so on. But, by putting together this network of collaboration, they’re not just helping one person cross the river of homelessness — they’re building a bridge so that everyone who goes through a time of homelessness can walk back across the river, realize their dignity and contribute to society. (See “Fratelli Tutti,” 186-187.)
St. Patrick Center is a shining example of Church teaching in action. Their work challenges all of us to recognize and serve the glorious Jesus in the gritty realities of our lives.
Success Stories: https://stpatrickcenter.org/success-stories/
Hospitals to Housing: https://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/story/no-more-streets-no-more-hospitals-just-home-sweet-home-hospital-to-housing-program-transforms-lives