Mercy Mondays

Shelter as the Foundation

By Rev. Monsignor Michael Boland | Monday, November 14, 2016

Shelter is one of our most critical needs. In many ways, it serves as the foundation, or the building block, of our survival. Often, we hear people ask questions of the homeless, such as “Why don’t they just get a job?” or criticisms like, “If they had worked harder, they wouldn’t be in this situation.” One thing we must remember is that without the foundation of shelter, stability crumbles, and the goals that we strive for seem increasingly more out of reach.

Losing our foundation means that we become unable to focus on anything other than finding a safe place to lay our heads. Even the simplest needs like clean clothing, a place to shower, and a hot meal become an incredible challenge. For all of these needs, and more, Catholic Charities is there to offer a hand-up to the homeless, and carry them back up to the place where they are physically, mentally, and spiritually whole again.

At Catholic Charities, we hope to bring the spirit of hope and the true faces of homelessness to light in our city. We often think of the chronically homeless as the only people seeking help –those who face mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction, and those we encounter panhandling downtown or near the expressway ramps. While these men and women also need our care, they are not the only individuals seeking shelter. In fact, more than 50% of Chicago’s homeless are children.

Catholic Charities programs work collaboratively toward a common goal of ending homelessness in Chicago. For those who are already facing homelessness, we have our transitional and supportive housing units throughout Cook and Lake counties. For those who need emergency assistance and are not yet homeless, we offer our homelessness prevention programs. In a groundbreaking new study, Catholic Charities collaborated with the of Notre Dame Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities and All Chicago earlier this year, and proved that our Homelessness Prevention Call Center is an effective and efficient way to save taxpayer dollars and prevent families from entering the ranks of the homeless.

Pope Francis tells us that we must show those in need that they are important. We can do this by helping them with their basic needs, honoring their dignity, and beginning them on their journey toward the self-sufficiency that will lift them out of poverty.

Mercy Challenge

What are some common misconceptions of homelessness you have experienced – either personally or through conversation with friends? In what ways can you challenge yourself to help shelter the homeless?

The next time you encounter an individual facing homelessness, ask yourself, “What if I were in their shoes? What if it was Jesus in their shoes?” Then, treat that person as you would want to be treated. Please consider making a donation to Catholic Charities Emergency Assistance Services. Your dollars will then be used to provide food, clothing, shelter, and employment services to individuals most in need.

Rev. Monsignor Michael M. Boland is the President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago.