Over the years I have often found that I had to step back in order to see more clearly. Often mistakes are made or issues missed when people don’t step back to see the bigger picture. St. Vincent certainly showed us the importance of seeing a wider picture.
First some observations…
National and local governments have been issuing stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders to curb the spread of the coronavirus,
For the homeless, ironically, staying at home is not a problem. They have no home whether through unforeseen circumstances out of their control or personal failing. Even the simplest of health measures such as access to running water to wash their hands are difficult.
They often face a different form of social distancing when they are discouraged from using washrooms in stores, restaurants and public buildings — something most of us take for granted.
For more examples visit How Do 1.8 Billion Homeless and 3.0 Billion With No Water Access Stay Home, Wash Hands?
Obviously Pope Francis has taken special interest in the situation of the homeless especially in this time of pandemic. He frequently asks us to pray for and assist those who are homeless.
But he does more. Pope Francis challenges us to be “social poets” and look at a bigger picture. Poets are well known for helping us step back and see things we have not noticed before.
Pope Francis calls for “Social Poets”
In his April 2020 Letter to Popular Movements, Pope Francis says: “you are social poets because, from the forgotten peripheries where you live, you create admirable solutions for the most pressing problems afflicting the marginalized.”
He earlier said that “popular movements, are sowers of change, promoters of a process involving millions of actions, great and small, creatively intertwined like words in a poem; that is why I wanted to call you ‘social poets’.”
I had never heard the phrase ”social poets” before. So I asked some people about it. Perhaps not surprisingly given Pope Francis’ Argentinian roots, the phrase occurs frequently in Latin American poetry. “Social poetry is poetry that performs a social function or contains a level of social commentary.”
I would like to propose that the Vincentian Family Homeless Alliance are such social poets in action. They step back and see those who are without shelter. But most importantly, they ask: What must be done?
And the response comes by way of the multiple initiatives from the social poets Vincentian Family working for those “forgotten peripheries.” They are willing to continue their services to people experiencing homelessness and to attend to the urgent emerging needs of children and families living on the streets, slum dwellers, dumpster dwellers, and refugees.
“The 13 Houses Campaign is a Famvin Homeless Alliance initiative and aims to improve and transform the lives of 10,000 homeless people around the world in 3-5 years from 2018. More than that, we want to see 13 Houses projects in each of the 156 countries where the Vincentian Family works!”