An Open Letter to Bishop Richard Lennon of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese:
As you are aware the Pope has constructed a new shelter in Vatican City. Here is how the Huffington Post described the shelter “Pope Francis will open a homeless shelter on the edge of Vatican City, the latest move by the pontiff to help poor people in Rome. The shelter is under construction on Via Penitenzieri, just a few steps away from the Vatican walls, a Holy See spokeswoman said.”
During the Pope’s visit to the United States he brought a message that we all need to serve the poorest among us. This is from the New York Times: “The pope is saying with this visit, you need to get involved with the poor,” said Msgr. John J. Enzler, the chief executive of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, while he waited for the pope to arrive. He’s saying to all people, ‘Get out in the streets, get dirty, and be a church on the street.’ ”
The Huffington Post described the Pope’s visit this way: “I want to be very clear. We can’t find any social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever for lack of housing,” he continued. “We know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person. He wanted everyone to experience his companionship, his help and his love. He identified with all those who suffer, who weep, who suffer any kind of injustice. He tells us this clearly, ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’"
In Cleveland, we are having a huge issue with an increase in family homelessness and single women overflowing the entry shelter. We are seeing hundreds of families being “diverted” from shelter every year because the shelters are so full and we continue to close shelters. We have nearly every night 190 women sleeping in the Community Women’s Shelter while we only have 130 beds. The County continues to stuff more and more women into this same building creating a toxic and dysfunctional facility in which very few can get help. We need the resources and authority of the Diocese to begin to address the issue of homelessness
The County will not approve additional shelter beds using public money because it shows a retreat in their current strategy and that the current plan for “ending homelessness” is not working. We need the religious community to step forward to care for these families or these women who are trying to put their lives together. Outreach workers are finding pregnant women living on the streets more and more often. We should not emulate the Roman Empire and allow women to give birth to their children in mangers in our community.
We appreciate all the work that the Catholic Charities does to meet the hunger needs of those struggling in our community, but we urge you to follow the lead of the Pope with introduction of a shelter for families or women in Cleveland or better in the suburbs to serve the quarter of the population from outside the City. We urge you to use Catholic resources to help us to protect women and children in this community, get dirty and be a church for the streets of Cleveland.
Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved