We had a great day looking at the topic of homelessness and housing and spending a second day at Mercy Center. Our morning consisted of heading to Valley Lodge which sounds like a place you go to ski, but is actually a home for those over 50 who find themselves homeless. Laura Jergenson who is the home’s director covered several aspects of the city’s policies, several of which aren’t exactly helpful to the plight of the homeless.
Later that same theme was reiterated by Laura Jervis, a Presbyterian Minister who is the executive director for the West Side Federation for the Homeless. She builds “permanent affordable housing” for the aged poor and started the federation herself.
In the evening we met Fr. Ted Brown from LIU who led us on our venture “into the streets.” We saw much of the statistics that our earlier site leaders spoke of, namely:
The city just decided to close a shelter randomly without notice earlier in the afternoon. Normally, there would have been tons of homeless people at this shelter but instead, they all had to quickly find an alternate plan for sleeping that evening.
We met many homeless individuals regardless, including a former hairdresser to the stars who got pushed out of his hairstyling shop becuase of the economy. A older woman came with another man and I would have sworn that she was “the social worker” and yet she was on the streets. She was a bit shy but one of our students, Katie talked to her non-stop.
For myself, I spent a good deal of time with one man who talked about the danger of the shelters. “You have to sleep on the streets because there are too many murderers in the shelters. So much crime goes on there. You have to sleep on a chair! What human being sleeps on a chair!!? I sleep on the streets where I can lie down.
Fr Ted, always an inspiring man said “This is why I am a priest.”
And in the simplicity of a man who serves the poor, was found a man who truly stands in persona Christi. I pray that God gives us more men like him in the near future.