Confreres from the Vice-Province of SS. Cyril and Methodius involved in prison ministry in Odessa–a port city in the southern Ukraine–observed that inmates received little preparation to reenter society upon their release. This experience eventually led our confreres to join with other organizations in more systemic efforts to address poverty in the region. Their collaboration with the Daughters of Charity, DePaul International, DePaul Ukraine, the “Communita in Dialogo” in Italy, and the Vinzi Project in Austria, gave birth to the Vincentian Harbor Project.
The project began with a mobile social services center: a refurbished transit bus used to distribute food, clothing, medical care, counseling, and legal assistance to over 700 impoverished residents in Odessa.
The Vincentian Harbor Project has since expanded to include three additional service centers. One of the centers provides rehabilitation and transitional housing for homeless men from Odessa, and is located outside the city in Buldinka. The Vincentian Solidarity Office obtained grant funding to purchase some of the property for this center, and to help renovate its existing structures into a residence for the men, and a small chapel-meeting facility. An especially creative aspect of this center, also financed with the help of the VSO, was the purchase of shipping containers and their conversion into a comfortable, second residence for some of the men. The program in Buldinka continues to grow, so a third residence for men is currently under construction with main funding from the Slovenian Mission Center.
The VSO is working to co-finance the residence and the installation of its geothermal heating. With contributions from the Communita in Dialogo and private donors, our confreres purchased land in Vizirka, which neighbors Buldinka, to create a rehabilitation and transitional housing center for homeless women. The Sisters of Mary of the Miraculous Medal provided funding to construct a residence for the women. The VSO obtained funding to build a workshop for the women (which they will use to learn handcrafts as vocational training), and a garage for the program vehicle and supplies. With monies from the Slovenian Mission Center and private donors, our confreres also began to construct a four-floor house near Odessa in Fontanka, as their residence and pastoral center from which to administrate the Vincentian Harbor Project. The VSO obtained funding, some of which came from the Archdiocese of Cologne, to help our confreres finish its construction.