Let me tell you about a Vincentian martyr for the cause of the homeless.
Deacon Patrick Logsdon directed a program for the homeless, men from the street and men just released from prison, at Anthony House in Roosevelt, NY. This residence is a transitional housing program of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul on Long Island. Pat lived and worked there for 33 years.
Pat was murdered on November 3. Little is known of what happened that day.
Pat’s program focused on practical help and orientation. He didn’t do “for” the men as much as “with” them. He believed nothing was more important for these men than having a job, and he made them look for one within a week after arriving there. Pat would give them a bus pass and a list of employer contacts, and send them off. He believed that although personal counseling has its place, finding and holding a job was the key, the essential step to give men a sense of pride, purpose and direction in life. And for some, the job would be the first legitimate source of income in their lives.
No one “sat around” at Anthony House. There is a washer and a dryer in the basement of the house, but the residents could not use them. They would soon be out on their own and so, Pat believed, they should use the laundromat as part of learning to do for themselves. Residents also had house chores every night after dinner. Everything pointed towards preparation for their own future independent and productive life.
Once employed, they had to hand over a portion of their pay until Pat was able to help them get a bank account. Pat saved this money for their eventual move to independent living, a move which Pat believed should happen sooner rather than later. No re-institutionalization at Anthony House! Men had to make a plan, move forward step by step in carrying it out, and find their own place, often a one room arrangement at first.
Anthony House, and especially its director, were well known and respected in the neighborhood. When one resident, a Mr. T look-alike, began lifting weights in the backyard, it soon became a daily routine as several unemployed young men from Roosevelt joined in. Pat welcomed this as part of his community outreach work, which took many forms.
Former residents returned frequently to see Pat, stay for dinner, and tell current residents their own stories. Testimonies abound. One of the simplest yet most compelling is that of one who said: “The thing is, I felt safe at Anthony House. I never expected to feel safe again. The streets aren’t safe, prison isn’t safe. I felt safe here.”
The phone at Anthony House never stopped ringing, as men from “upstate” (the prison system) called repeatedly trying to reserve a spot at the house upon their release. Pat wrote countless letters as well, trying to lift up inmates’ spirits. The correspondence alone was a ministry. Stories among ex-prisoners about “the deacon” are endless.
Pat lived a simple life at Anthony House. He prayed daily. He cooked and ate with the men. He met with each on a regular basis, checking on their life plan, cajoling and insisting on practical steps towards personal growth and independent living. His life was all about serving this especially challenging homeless population.
Pat will be sorely missed but he left a wonderful legacy. In this anniversary year of Vincentian Charity, as we launch a global initiative for the homeless, we have a Vincentian martyr to the cause. Perhaps his untimely death but even more his exemplary life will be a special blessing on this initiative.
Friend and Colleague