Poverty Awareness Month

Poverty Awareness Month 940 788 SVDP USA

Written by: Bobby Kinkela, Voice of the Poor Representative for the Mideast Region

January is homeless awareness month. Homelessness in Michigan is difficult this time of year in the cold and the snow. There are friends in need who are living out of their cars. The trick here, I’ve heard, is figuring out how much gas money it will take to keep the phone charged and the heater on enough so you can’t see your breath. Yet most cars and vans are not meant for living and the car batteries often fry out. Our Conference helped a friend experiencing homelessness purchase a deep cycle car battery to replace her broken car battery. This allowed her to run her household items without quickly burning out her battery. Yet in the state of Michigan, the department of health and human services considers this woman “housed” because she has a van which is considered “shelter,” and so she is not entitled to additional homeless state money. She instead has to save up for move-in expenses.

There are some neighbors in need that take to outdoor camps in tents, even in the snow and cold. I wondered how it’s possible to live in the elements. One neighbor in need shows me how she keeps warm using a personal heater she made. The heater is a metal coffee cup filled with a mixture of hand sanitizer and alcohol lit with a flame. The flame is kept inside a metal boiling pan, so even if the mixture spills, her tent will not catch on fire.

The ingenuity of people and the desire to survive is a very human trait instilled in us by our Creator. Let us admire the ingenuity of people struggling to survive in a state of homelessness, while at the same time try to improve things so that they will not have to.

Written by: Fr. Wayne Biernat of St. Michael’s Parish in East Longmeadow, MA

When we look into the eyes of the poor, do we see the face of Jesus Christ? Do we feel and understand how truly lucky we are to encounter and experience the heart of Jesus Christ in that holy moment? Every time we embrace the gift and the grace of loving and serving the poor, we are given the blessing of encountering the divine. Being present and attentive to their needs is an invitation from God to truly love.  Love changes and blesses the human heart. Love is what we all yearn for in our humanity. The poor are experiencing an absence of love in a profound and life changing manner. When our basic needs are not provided for, we can feel an emptiness within our human heart that is deafening. We are all blessed with the power and strength to bless that emptiness for one another. How will we answer that knock on the door of the heart from God today?


Poverty Awareness Month: We Are Pilgrims — We Are Not Tourists

Poverty Awareness Month: We Are Pilgrims — We Are Not Tourists 940 788 SVDP USA

Written by: Pam Matambanadzo, National Board Member and Chair of the Multicultural and Diversity Committee

In his homily on Sunday, Fr. Jim Prehn, S.J. from Loyola University Chicago (a visiting priest at Saint Mary of the Lake/Our Lady of Lourdes Chicago) reminded us that we are all called and that we should look to the blessed Mother on what to do when called. He continued to say that all too often as Christians we tend to take the approach of tourists: viewing things from a safe distance; taking notes before moving onto the next thing.  We tend to seek what is comfortable.

He beckoned us to view our calling as would a pilgrim, whereby we do not know what is to come, but rather we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us.  Tourists tend to set agendas on what sites to visit and how long they will be there – everything is predictable. Pilgrimage, on the other hand, beckons us to a journey of spiritual focus that is sometimes uncomfortable. How are we truly to encounter the suffering Christ if we turn away from the challenges that come with speaking for the vulnerable?

As many of you may know, January is Poverty Awareness Month, and this year the Voice of the Poor Committee is inviting all Vincentians to journey with us as we reflect and discern our role in the plight of those experiencing Homelessness, or those simply unhoused in one form or another. Each week we will invite a fellow Vincentian to share with us how their community is tackling the challenges they encounter.

We will also be inviting clergy from different parts of the country to help us as we reflect. What is Catholic Social Teaching?  Is advocating for the vulnerable part and parcel of living out one’s gospel values? The U.S. Catholic Bishops say, “We are called to shape a constituency of conscience, measuring every policy by how it touches the least, the lost, and the left-out among us.”

The Voice of the Poor Committee is working on updating our Position Statement on Homelessness. The current version was approved by the National Council on August 31, 2007.  Please take time to review the statement along with all the others. Consider reaching out to your regional VOP Representative for more information on how to become more informed and active as we strive to go beyond the charity of feeding the poor to also seek justice for them and defend the life and dignity of neighbors living in poverty.

It is our pilgrimage – together we can make a difference.

SVdP Sends Infrastructure and Budget Letter to Congress

SVdP Sends Infrastructure and Budget Letter to Congress 1200 628 SVDP USA

On behalf of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and those we serve, SVdP National President Ralph Middlecamp recently sent a letter to Congress, urging Senators and Representatives to prioritize programs and policies that ensure poor and vulnerable families have access to stable housing, health care, and access to economic opportunity.

Click here to read the full letter, or visit our Voice of the Poor page to learn more.

To learn more about how you can contact your own elected officials about important issues like this, please sign up for our Voter Voice program.

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