IT’S HARD TO DO GOOD IN THE CHURCH
An article in Sunday’s St. Petersburg Times outlined some of the challenges which face Catholic Charities as it attempts to expand its services to the homeless of the five counties of our diocese. The article featured quotes from a neighborhood activist indicating her (and possibly others) strong opposition to the concept of opening a cold weather, safe shelter for qualifying homeless on vacant diocesan property in Hillsborough county. It was for me a typical “nimby” approach (translated that means “not in my backyard”) to a growing social challenge facing our nation – the rapidly expanding numbers of homeless on our streets.
The neighborhood spokesperson used as one of her reasons a study of Pinellas Hope done by the University of South Florida which was overwhelmingly positive in the first measureable results of the Pinellas Hope experience. The neighborhood leader suggested that the study showed that roughly twenty per cent of the homeless were not able to graduate into permanent housing and jobs. Actually the study showed that our first venture into the homeless shelter concept was quite successful, even surprisingly successful in placing homeless people in jobs and residences which were affordable and sustainable. Catholic Charities is not in this for just a “band-aid” response but to move as many off the street into a respectable and sustainable life. Our graduation rate is higher or at least as good as the high school graduation rates of the Pinellas and Hillsborough schools.
If in the end the civic authorities do not wish us to assist them, then we will move on to Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties. Any good thing done for the destitute and down-on-their luck population should meet the Lord’s criteria for the final judgment: I was in your neighborhood, your backyard, homeless, hungry, without a job or clean clothes, medicine or good hygiene and you took me in. It all proves once again how hard it is sometimes for the Church to do the good the Lord expects of us.