As the number of homeless people continues to rise around the world, members of the Vincentian family are carrying out a campaign to help give 10,000 people a home by the end of 2024.
By Sr. Nina Benedikta Krapić, VMZ
The Church celebrates the feast of St. Vincent de Paul on 27 September. For the entire month, the Vincentian Family, made up of more than 160 institutions and 4 million people in the world inspired by the charism of St. Vincent de Paul, celebrates with many different activities in a global context.
The spotlight of this year’s celebration is on the homeless. The global family is focused on providing practical and systemic solutions to deal with the issue of homelessness.
The Famvin Alliance for the Homeless is an initiative of the worldwide Vincentian Family. For 6 years now it has been dedicated to reducing and, where possible, eliminating homelessness.
13 Houses campaign
One of the active projects of the initiative is the “13 Houses” campaign. As part of the campaign, local groups of Vincentians are reaching out to the poor and providing them with a place they can call home.
Mark McGreevy OBE, President of Depaul International, and coordinator of the project on behalf of the Vincentian Family, spoke to Vatican News about the goal of the initiative.
“We have around about 101 different projects in 63 countries, benefiting over 9,350 people to date. Our aim is to try and grow that by the end of next year to 10,000 people that would have been housed and helped out of homelessness,” said Mr. McGreevy. The aim is to provide housing in 100 countries.
Mr. McGreevy noted that he is particularly proud of the good work being done in areas where raising money or bringing people together has proven very difficult.
He offered the example of the Daughters of Charity in Burkina Faso and their work with displaced populations. In Guatemala, Vincentians been taking care of 35 families who lost their houses after the volcano eruption, as well as in Mexico after an earthquake.
In Romania, the St. Vincent de Paul Society has been taking care of families whose children were constantly sick due to the inadequate housing. The Saint Vincent Depaul Society in Australia has provided over 500 units of housing as part of the initiative. The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have built houses in Nepal, Belize, and Botswana.
The campaign is based on an event in the life of St. Vincent de Paul. The saint used to feed the street children of Paris, but realized that this did not help them get off the streets permanently.
Then, in 1643, King Louis XIII died, leaving Vincent the equivalent of a million euros in inheritance. With this money, St. Vincent bought 13 houses where he housed these children, and the Daughters of Charity took care of them.
The religious sisters ensured that they received education, medical care and acquired skills so that they would never again find themselves on the streets.
More homeless people than ever before
Homelessness is bigger than what we see on the street, according to Mr. McGreevy:
“It also encompasses refugees and displaced people who amount to around about 112 million around the world at the moment, the highest number we’ve ever had. But it also takes in slum dwellers around the world who have no security of tenure, living hand to mouth,” he said. “And if we bring those figures in, then it’s around about 850 million people that suffer that plight. So, added together, homelessness is one in eight people on this planet, around about 1.4 billion people that could be regarded homeless every day.”
Homelessness in not a choice
In working with the homeless, members of the Vincentian family often battle the prejudice that homelessness is a choice.
“If it is, then I’ve met very few rich people who have chosen to be homeless,” says Mr. McGreevy.
He explained that the root of homelessness around the world can be found in poverty:
“Poverties might differ,” he noted. “They might be material, literally having no money, no resources at all. But there could be other poverties, they might relate to mental health issues, addiction issues, relational issues – falling apart of the family structure.”
Everyone can help
Homelessness is a global problem, but each individual can make a contribution to reducing it.
“The first thing I always say is that you just stop and talk to a homeless person,” said Mr. McGreevy. “Often the loneliness of that person on that street for days at a time is something that is very damaging over the longer term. To actually just spend time speaking to somebody and getting to know their name, understanding them, is a thing that we can do as a gesture every day.”
The work of Vincentians relates to Pope Francis’s message for the 2023 World Day of the Poor in which he urges: “May our concern for the poor always be marked by Gospel realism. Our sharing should meet the concrete needs of the other, rather than being just a means of ridding ourselves of superfluous goods.”