Mindful of Pope Francis’ imminent arrival in New York City, Cardinal Dolan and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a joint partnership Sept. 23 that will see the archdiocese work with the city to provide up to 150 beds and social services for people sleeping on city streets.
“Pope Francis is calling us all to action,” de Blasio said at a news conference on the grounds of St. Anthony’s parish in the Bronx. “We have to honor the pope’s vision by being there for people who are struggling.”
De Blasio has been under increasing criticism for the perceived growing number of visible homeless people sleeping and begging on city streets. His administration has been reaching out to the city’s religious leaders about the possibility of utilizing space within their properties for sheltering the burgeoning street homeless population.
“It’s a great honor for the Church to partner,” said Cardinal Dolan of the initiative. “There’s nothing more natural and good than feeding the hungry and helping the poor and sheltering the homeless.
“This continues the Church’s long-standing commitment on behalf of New Yorkers through Catholic Charities and our parishes and schools to provide help and create hope in the lives of New Yorkers in need.”
In September, the mayor announced the Opening Doors initiative, which will open at least 500 beds, providing shelter and social services to New Yorkers in need. Opening Doors builds upon the city’s efforts to add resources for the unsheltered homeless population. The partnership with the archdiocese will be part of that program. Religious facilities are expected to use extra space in their buildings to supply 10 to 19 beds each, and they will also provide social services and dinner.
The mayor said the city was also working with the Diocese of Brooklyn. Other faith denominations have promised more than 300 beds to the effort. The archdiocese said the 150 beds will be in place in time for winter.
“The critical point is that there will be services and there will be the attempt to engage the individuals in a very interpersonal way so that they feel at home,” explained Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities. “There is a connection which will enable them to deal with some of the difficult issues that there are.”
“What we have found through real experience is that a smaller, more supportive setting will actually draw people off the streets,” the mayor said. “We must do all we can to uplift those struggling and help get them back on their feet.”