A few days ago Ralph Middlecamp, President of the Society of Vincent de Paul in the United States, sent out the following letter to its membership. He provides a reminder of the fact that homelessness is still with us. The Society, as its Homelessness Task Force discovered, is already doing amazing work. He also challenges not only the Society but all Vincentians to think about what can and needs to be done as a Family. His letter is reminder to the entire family to realize both how much each branch is doing and how much remains to be done.

Dear Vincentian Friends,

Our Christmas Gospels have given us stories of a family seeking shelter in Bethlehem and forced to flee as refugees into Egypt after the visit of the Magi. It seems like an appropriate time to initiate a conversation about our Society’s commitment to serving those who live without shelter.

An Initiative of the Vincentian Family

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian Charism in 2017, the head of our Vincentian Family, Fr. Tomaž Mavrič, C.M., announced the formation of the Vincentian Family Global Initiative on Homelessness. This is an effort that encourages international collaboration among all those organizations that have St. Vincent as a founder or patron to address globally the problems faced by those who are homeless, refugees or slum dwellers.

What the Society is already doing

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a major part of this initiative, and in the United States, we already have programs that serve thousands of people who are homeless. As a first step in collaborating with this effort, the National Council has established a Homelessness Task Force. I am grateful to Joseph Sabatino for agreeing to chair the committee and for task force members who bring a tremendous amount of experience and expertise to the cause. The task force will serve as a forum for sharing best practices and advancing our efforts.

We started this effort not even knowing the scope of what we are already doing to address homelessness. I knew about and have visited some of our larger, most-successful efforts, but we had no accurate data on our collective efforts. Therefore, the first project the task force took on was to gather information and create a report. That report is complete and you can find it by clicking the following link: SVdP 2018 Housing Report.

I encourage you to read the report because you may be as surprised– as were members of the task force– at the size and diversity of our combined efforts. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is one of the largest providers of services in the United States to people who are homeless. We found more than 100 distinct programs operated by 26 Councils that shelter over 9,000 people a night. The annual cost of running these programs exceeds $72 million. The programs include emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, affordable housing and rapid re-housing. We know there are programs we may have missed, so if your Council or Conference operates a housing program that is not listed in this report, please contact us.

What still needs to be done

The programs identified in the task force report do not include the significant efforts our Conferences make to prevent evictions through payments for rent and utilities. These are significant contributions to preventing homelessness that we also need to collect and add to our report.

To advance the international efforts at collaboration, the Famvin Homeless Alliance met this November in Rome, where Michael Raposa and I were privileged to represent the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Over 100 people from five continents attended the meeting. The event provided an opportunity to learn from and share with Vincentians doing amazing work in very difficult situations.

The tone for the meeting was set by Fr. Robert Maloney, C.M., who presented the paper “Welcoming the Stranger – St. Vincent de Paul and the Homeless,” which I recommend for your reading. We shared our national report and committed to working with Depaul USA and other parts of the Vincentian Family to look for opportunities for collaboration and expansion of our efforts with vulnerable people who are homeless. To that end, we are planning to gather some of those we met in Rome to meet with our task force as part of our U.S. Council Mid-year Meeting in St. Louis this April.

What the Society is committed to

Our Strategic Plan calls for us to “Strengthen and support Councils in providing housing and services to those without shelter.” Going forward, I look for the National Council Housing Task Force to do several things:

  • Work with existing programs to improve them and to share best practices
  • Be a resource to Councils looking to create new programs to serve those who are homeless
  • Surface issues that can be integrated into our Voice of the Poor advocacy efforts
  • Use the information about our collective impact to help us find additional resources ton support the efforts of our local Councils

If you or your Council have an interest in participating in these efforts, please contact Tom Mulloy from our National Staff. This is not easy work. We need to be certain we do it in a manner that involves our membership in direct contact with those served. I invite you to consider the many ways we can be involved and to watch for more information from the Homelessness Task Force.

Serviens in spe,

Ralph Middlecamp, National Council President

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