The Church of the Gesu hosted its second faith forum this year on Nov. 4 in the lower church gathering space. This forum was called Homelessness in Our Neighborhood.
Father Jim Flaherty said Gesu will hold faith forums during the winter and spring on discernment in the Ignatian tradition, the origins and development of the creed of Ignatius and how to integrate faith with professional life.
Toiletry items and new socks for men, women and children were collected before the forum. Peg Flahive, director of human concerns for the Church of the Gesu, said the donations will be given to the Cathedral Center and Capuchin Community Services.
Representatives from both organizations spoke about homelessness and programs and resources provided by their organizations to assist the homeless.
Amy Rowell, director of resource development for Cathedral Center, said many people still view the homeless as “the other” or “less than.”
Rowell said to break down this view, people need to be vulnerable and sensitive, and engage with people of different backgrounds.
Rowell said society often depicts homeless families as mothers with children. However, she said the Cathedral Center also works with single dads and two-parent homes.
“We work to keep families together and unite families that have been separated,” Rowell said.
Rowell added that the Cathedral Center embraces, shows compassion and provides a stable and safe place for the people that come to them. She said the guests are also provided with basic necessities such as food, water and clean clothes.
Rowell said a success rate for the guests cannot be clearly defined.
“Success is different for everybody,” Rowell said. “If guests don’t reach what we think they can, it doesn’t mean that they failed.”
She said the Cathedral Center looks at individuals that come to them as people by respecting them on their journeys and by accepting them when they are ready for help.
Rowell said some of the programs provided by the Cathedral Center are a women’s independent service, a 90 days emergency shelter and the Friendship House, which is a flexible housing program the Cathedral Center has partnered with for two years.
Brother Rob Roemer, ministry director at Capuchin Community Services, said volunteering at Capuchin Community Services’ meal program is a great way for guests and volunteers to interact with each other.
Roemer said volunteering is not just about serving food to the guests.
“The main thing is to listen to people,” Roemer said. “It’s about hearing people’s stories.”
He added that a smile goes a long way for the guests.
“So many (guests) tell me ‘I feel invisible because people don’t look at me,’” Roemer said.
He added that since the organization does not receive any government funding, no one is turned away.
“Everyone is welcome,” Roemer said. “No questions asked.”
Roemer said Capuchin Community Services also provides guests with showers, copay prescriptions and gas cards among other resources. He said temporary services are provided for guests because often times they are turned away from full-time employment.
Capuchin Community Services is also building temporary housing for guests that will include a gathering space, a barber shop and a laundromat, Roemer said.
He said guests tell him they have to throw their clothes away after a few days because they have no place to wash them.
The people around us may be homeless and we may not even know, Roemer added.
“A neighbor is not just someone that lives next door or someone you sit by,” Roemer said. “A neighbor is anyone we pass on the street.”