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The Challenge of Homelessness

3 February 2017

United States

Homelessness should not be a problem in a country like the United States of America—a country with so much wealth and opportunity, but it is a HUGE CHALLENGE!  In our provincial and cluster gatherings it has emerged as one of the most critical issues of our time.

If we look at the statistics for San Diego, California, alone, the numbers are staggering. I cite the situation of this area alone for the sake of this article.  On any given night, nearly 9,000 people are homeless in the region, and of those 1,122 are children. 

San Diego has the fourth largest homeless population in the nation among major cities behind New York, Los Angeles and Seattle, Washington.  Despite a 3% decrease in the number of Veterans who are homeless in San Diego, we continue to have the 3rd largest number of homeless Veterans in the nation.  The high cost of housing, low rental vacancy rate and continued stagnant job growth mean that preventing and ending homelessness in San Diego is a particular challenge.

As Sisters we wonder what draws and keeps people in our area given the facts above.  Our region is blessed with a wonderful climate nearly the whole year round which makes sleeping on the streets not quite as bad as it could be; we have several military bases that produce Veterans from so many deployments abroad. This certainly affect the men and women who serve both physically and psychologically. Also there is an openness to a diversity of culture and so many other things that differentiate us as humans. 

Sunrise on San Diego

To drive down the streets of  downtown San Diego is to look at another world with makeshift tents and structures propped up against fences, buildings and bridges and in among the bushes. Every main street corner has someone with a sign looking for help.  This scene seems to belong to some country in another part of the world, but this is our world and it pulls at our heartstrings. Parishes and other agencies do their best to reach out. In small and larger ways, Sisters too are trying to bring hope and compassion to those who are caught in homelessness in California.

Here are some accounts by Sisters of how they are working with this challenge of Homelessness as part of their ministries in the U.S. Province;

Mary's Table

Sr. Sandy Di Cianno -San Bernardino, CA:  "Two days a week, for two to three hours, I volunteer at Mary’s Table.  I work mostly in the pantry filling bags of groceries, setting up, and wrapping Christmas presents for the homeless.  On a few occasions I have helped serve the beverages during their lunch meal which I like because I can spend time talking and laughing with them.  I really enjoy working with the homeless people and the other volunteers." 

(Sandy Di Cianno:srsandy@yahoo.com

Catholic Worker House

Sr. Fidelma Heeran-San Jose, CA.  "Each Wednesday from 12:30 --4:00 p.m., I head to the Catholic Worker House in downtown San Jose.  Two portable showers were purchased during the summer.  I am one of two volunteers who clean the shower after each person has showered. This opportunity for using showers is one way of helping the homeless to hold on to their self-respect and enables us to appreciate all that we have in our own homes."

(Fidelma Heeran:fidelmarsm@sbcglobal.net)


Fr. Joe's Village

Sr. Carmel Lohan -San Diego, CA—Fr. Joe’s Village. "Fr. Joe’s Villages gives shelter and food to over 800 people, women, men and children on any given day.  I have the privilege of being chaplain at the Village.  Our mission is to be a hope-filled presence to all.  I experience the many people I encounter each day to be grateful for any service they get.  Most of them have been down on their luck for way too long; they have been forgotten or betrayed by family and friends and experience great hardship of inclement weather, poverty and illness both physical and mental.  So a listening heart and recognition of them as people is very much appreciated by them.  My work consists of pastoral care/counselling, arranging for Bible studies, Mass, non-denominational liturgical services, memorials, men’s and women’s support groups, music, art, and Tai-Chi, all of which build up a person’s confidence and instils a sense of hope."

(Carmel Lohan:carmel.lohan@cox.net)

Sr. Carmel Lohan at Fr. Joe's in San Diego

Srs. Margaret Mullaney & Susan deGuide participate in fund raising walk for Fr. Joe's Village

Community Christian Service Agency
Sr. Mary O'Connor -Pacific Beach/San Diego, CA. "I am living in an area with a large population of homeless people.  I volunteer on Tuesdays for the Community Christian Service Agency, an ecumenical Christian agency supported by 15 Pacific Beach and Clairemont churches.  The Pacific Beach facility provides its services of food, clothing and supplies from a tiny space of four spare rooms granted by the local Presbyterian church and accessed by a back alley.  We have a medical professional on site a couple of hours each day, and we give referrals for people seeking more help or finding the transition to self-reliance. (I am strictly a sandwich maker and clothing distributor so far!)."

(Mary O’Connor:maryoc65@gmail.com)

We welcome more opportunities to serve and help the homeless in our other ministries.

Compiled by Susan DeGuide:srdeguide@gmail.com
U.S Province

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