Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose, and Vicar General for
Special Projects, Diocese of San Jose, firstname.lastname@example.org.
If Not Now, Then When?
“And what should we do?” his disciples asked. John the Baptist answers them “Those of you who have two cloaks, should share with the person who has none. And those who have food should likewise.”
Over the last year, we have heard about the homeless in Santa Clara County. We have over 7,000 homeless in the county and over 4,500 of those are in our own city of San Jose. We have the highest number of unsheltered homeless in the country, here in our own Silicon Valley, one of the wealthiest counties in the wealthiest nation of all time. We have also learned that they become homeless for many different reasons. Sometimes because of things that have happened to them and sometimes because of the poor choices that they have made in response. Sometimes because of their inability to make good choices they end up in a bad situation.
We all need somebody to believe in us just for a moment so that we can believe in ourselves. When you hear the stories of people experiencing homelessness, we realize that there is not much difference between them and us. There was somebody in our life that loved us where we were and because of that we made good choices. Sometimes, we made bad choices but we were covered by their love and we had room to make mistakes. For them, they did not have as much opportunity of love in their lives and the poor choices seem to compound their situation.
What should we do? That has been the question that has been asked for every disciple of every generation. Several years ago, in consultation with the school leadership and all the parish leadership councils, Holy Spirit Parish opened our church to those experiencing homelessness. We call it Village House.
Each year, we operate a rotating shelter with 15 other churches to provide shelter for 15 women experiencing homelessness. Each Church operates the shelter for one month. They arrive at 7 p.m. in the evening. We host a hot meal and then we bring them to our Church where we give them cots, sheets and blankets. They sleep there until 6:30am, at which time they receive a hot breakfast. At 7 a.m., they leave for the day with a packed lunch and head off to the day shelter at another church partner. We hope to stabilize their needs. They will have shelter and they will have food. It is our hope we are able to create an environment where they can start to think and strategize for permanent solutions in that period of time. We hope that this will be successful and that others will follow. The question is what should we do? I ask you this: If not us, then who? If not now, then when? Remember at the end of our lives we will be judged not on how well we have lived but on how well we have loved. This is our opportunity to share that love with someone else.