The Society of St. Vincent de Paul “Voice of the Poor” has always used a collaborative approach to advocacy. We learned early on that, while Vincentians have a great depth of experience in direct contact with those in need, we don’t have a great deal of experience or strength in the public legislative world. Therefore, throughout the US, you will see examples of Voice of the Poor Vincentians working with Catholic Charities, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and other like-minded groups to pool our resources to speak on behalf of those we serve.
There certainly are many other groups with much more experience in the public arena. However, other advocates always welcome our contributions because of the unique approach we take to our service, visiting those in need in their homes. That makes for some powerful advocacy.
The most recent example of effective collaboration on a national level is the joint letter to the House of Representatives, sent June 17th (http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/agriculture-nutrition-rural-issues/upload/letter-to-house-on-farm-bill-2013-06-17.pdf). Our national president, Sheila Gilbert was one of six Catholic leaders, including two Bishops, who cosigned this letter asking for support of the Farm Bill, which includes critical support for SNAP on which so many of those we serve depend to keep their families fed.
Another recent example of collaboration we’ve joined is the Circle of Protection (http://circleofprotection.us/pdf/CoP_Pastoral_Letter.pdf). This is an organization of great religious diversity united in the belief that federal budget discussions must include the voice of the underserved. Voice of the Poor is also representing The Society with other members of the Vincentian Family to unite in our support and advocacy for just immigration reform.
Many of us are already collaborating in our conferences. We may partner with other community or faith based organizations to pay a bill that is beyond our financial means for one family. Or, we may partner on food drives.
However, if we are to really make a difference in our communities, we are going to have to expand our work from one to one direct service one to many -through education, advocacy, and collaboration-with our parishes, with other conferences and with our communities.
How to we take our collaboration to the next level? Start with a neighboring conference. Look for ways you can work together to mitigate the contributors to need in your area. Maybe it’s transportations to jobs. Maybe it’s a lack of affordable healthy food in your area. Or, perhaps its fostering collaboration among those we see on home visits, to teach them how to work together to get a landlord to improve energy efficiency or some other housing condition.
Or, go to your parish to enlister their help in dealing with need. Your role can be to use the facts you gather on home visits to find root causes problems-problems that are common among many or most people. You could look to JustFaith groups, social justice ministries, or others with a concern for people in need.
The question to ask is “if we were to get people on a road to self-sufficiency, if we were to help them get out of need, what would we do?”
Please visit the source of this post on Vincentian Collaboration especially for it references to Vincent and Louise and the thought of Fr. Robert Maloney, the 23rd successor to St. Vincent dePaul.