If you have ever looked closely at a letter from Depaul USA, you will have seen the tag line at the bottom, “Everyone should have a place to call home and a stake in their community” writes Charles Levesque Director of Depaul USA.
That tag line is our vision. Every day, Depaul USA and its international affiliates work to provide housing – to make the first part of that sentence a reality. While certainly a challenge, I have often thought that providing housing is easier than ensuring that the people we work with feel that they have a say in their community. When most of America is “bowling alone,” is it possible for our residents and the people we work with, who often feel isolated and marginalized, to truly “build” community?
Recent events in Macon have convinced me it is possible–and moving and magical when it happens. On November 15th, just hours before the launch of the Daybreak Capital Campaign, Sister Elizabeth and I noticed two men who squat in a nearby abandoned warehouse sweeping the streets clear of leaves and debris around the Daybreak property line. When we asked what they were doing, they told us they wanted the neighborhood to look good for the guests who were coming to Daybreak that afternoon. Similarly, at Friday’s inaugural community dinner, two of the volunteers serving dinner were homeless women. This spirit of involvement is contagious and inspiring. After the dinner, two formerly homeless men donated dining room tables and chairs to Daybreak, which at this point is essentially an empty warehouse. They told Sister that they wished Macon had this kind of facility when they were homeless.
I think this participation speaks to something special about Daybreak and its creators and supporters. From the start, they have taken the time to make the program welcoming, accessible, and inclusive. I feel the same welcoming atmosphere when I walk through the doors of Depaul House in Philadelphia. As we expand in New Orleans, I want everyone who boards our service van to experience that same feeling. In fact, everywhere we grow and operate, I know now that setting the proper atmosphere –getting the project’s tone right– is the first step to building meaningful community and enriching all our lives.
I hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Charles W. Levesque