On Thursday, October 28, the Vincentian Family at the UN presented a Parallel Event of Urban October, “What Happens When People Have Housing? Better City—Better Life.”
The moderator was Teresa Kotturan SCN, NGO Representative of the Sisters of Charity Federation.
Sr. Teresa opened the event by making the clear connection between Climate Change and people living without stable, secure housing.
Our speakers came to us from three vastly distinct parts of the world, the Philippines, Louisville, KY, and New York.
The first speaker was Melba Vera Cruz, a member of the International Association of Charities in the Philippines. Melba spoke passionately about the destruction of houses by three back-to-back typhoons, there were 396 families, or 1980 individuals forced to leave their homes for safety during the typhoon. When they returned, they found 309 houses partially damaged and fifty-eight houses totally damaged. This affected a substantial number of people, including 792 children, sixty-five senior citizens, and 25 people with disabilities.
A program was organized to rebuild as many homes as possible, they called it “Hi Rah AY-ON” a local word for repair. “Rahay” means good, “Hi” means fix, repair, mend or renovate. “Ayon” means to take part or join. The Ladies of Charity were the first to answer the call. The goal was to rebuild rather than build new homes. They were able to rebuild fifty-eight family homes.
The second project Melba told us about is a joint project with FamVin Homeless Alliance, AIC International, LOC-AIC Philippines, LOC-AIC Naga City Unit, Naga City local government and St. Jude Thaddeus Parish. This program is planning to build new homes at the cost of $1,445.00 per home. They have a target of twenty new homes, the groundbreaking for the first twelve will begin soon.
The second speaker was Sister Donna Dodge SC, the President of Sisters of Charity of New York. Sr. Donna shared the impressive list of housing under the organization of the Sisters in New York, including six on Staten Island, three in Manhattan, and several in Rockland County. The homes are all safe havens for the residents, some who are formerly homeless.
They have plans for a new project on Staten Island for 360 units of affordable homes.
The Sisters of Charity have adopted a housing first philosophy and they are advocates for fair housing through their Peace, Justice, and Integrity Office, led by Sr. Carol DeAngelo.
Sr. Donna ended her talk by telling us “The Sisters of Charity will continue to do all in our power to address and eradicate homelessness.”
The last two speakers came to us from the Louisville Urban League. First was Courtney Robinson, a formerly homeless man who spoke about the trauma of being homeless as only a person with lived experience can.
Courtney opened a window into the heart of homelessness by speaking candidly of the depths of despair and depression he experienced when he was labeled as a “Homeless person.” His ability to allow himself to be vulnerable and work to rebuild his life was inspiring.
After Courtney spoke, we heard from the final speaker, Sadiqa Reynolds, the President and CEO of Louisville Urban League. Sadiqa is the first woman, and woman of color to hold this position in the 100-year history of the organization!
Sadiqa spoke of the 6,000 homeless children in Louisville, prior to the pandemic, this is most likely a much higher number now.
She told us the Urban League takes a holistic approach to homelessness, they accept people as they are, where they are, and work from there. If someone is unable to get to the job training due to transportation constraints, they will get a cab for them, or purchase a car for them. Whatever it takes to lift a person from poverty and homelessness is what they will do.
When speaking about “fixing” the problem of homelessness, Sadiqa suggests we should all be intentional about it, be people centered.
Sadiqa’s talk was the perfect way to end our very impactful event.
I have only touched on what each speaker said, I would like to invite you to listen to the entire event by going to link we have here, where you will be able to see and hear the event in its entirety. I believe it was a powerful morning, time well spent. We have been given good suggestions for our battle against homelessness. Let us continue our work to end global homelessness together.
Pattie Hughes, NGO Representative at the UN
International Confederation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul