The other day I met a senior who related a poignant and powerful story.
A retired Air Force veteran, Patrick and his wife lived on a modest retirement income. Then one day, their landlord raised their rent by 50%, far above what they could afford and they became homeless on their 41st wedding anniversary. They ended up living in a park only a few blocks away from their former apartment. The police looked out for them to make sure they were OK, but many people looked down on them, assuming they were on drugs or criminals or “takers.” They were just seniors who had worked hard all their lives and were now down on their luck due to the high cost of living in our valley.
One day a homeless outreach staff pointed out a construction site across from the park. “See that building, that’s Catholic Charities Housing. If you play your cards right, you might be able to get in.”
Sure enough, with the help of Catholic Charities staff and a housing voucher from the VA, they were among the lucky ones to be able to rent from Charities Housing a modest studio apartment that is clean, safe, and permanent with support services from Catholic Charities.
Now Patrick is volunteering with a homeless outreach program. At a recent gathering at the apartment building, Patrick told a group of us, “Catholic Charities is compassion.” He is now sharing that compassion with others who struggled like he did.
For every success story like Patrick and his wife, there are thousands more people who are still struggling in this valley with homelessness or with high rents living in overcrowded homes with space shared by three or more families. When our Charities Housing team recently announced the opening of new affordable apartments, we had more than 7,000 applicants for fewer than 200 apartments.
To solve this housing crisis, we need multiple approaches, but first of all we need an awareness and willingness of the community to welcome people home, to let go of our assumptions of what it means to be homeless or poor.
Second, we need supporters to engage in volunteering and donating to address both immediate and long–term needs. And then we need to advocate for land use and financing policies that expand the number of affordable apartments for people on fixed incomes or being paid low to moderate wages.
How will you share your compassion?