Mobile Outreach--Answering Summer's Urgent Call
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 by Communications

In June, we eagerly anticipate the end of the school year, sunny days, and a slower, more relaxed pace of life.
But we at Catholic Charities know that not everyone experiences the joys of summer.  In fact, it is during the summer months that some of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters need us the most.  I think particularly of the elderly and disabled who live in tiny, sweltering apartments;  the homeless who have little escape from the heat; and children and teens who lack not only a safe place to spend their days off from school, but who also may not get proper nutrition without the free and reduced price meals they receive at school.
To determine how best to meet the needs of these at-risk populations, Catholic Charities asked that familiar question: “What would Jesus do?”  Would Jesus wait for his most vulnerable brothers and sisters to find him and ask for help?  No—he would go to them!   And that is exactly what Catholic Charities decided to do as well.  
This year, Catholic Charities began operating the Mobile Outreach Program which takes referrals from the City’s 311 call center to perform well-being checks, transport people to shelters or temporary housing, and provide emergency food boxes.  With 10 vans that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we find those that need our help on the streets, at police stations or hospitals, and inside apartments and homes in neighborhoods throughout the City of Chicago. 

We assess their well-being, provide food if needed, and transport them to warming or cooling centers and temporary shelters whenever necessary.    We not only meet their immediate emergency needs, but we also link them to other services to address their long-term health, nutritional and psychological needs.    Most of the 40,000 people we help through the Mobile Outreach Program have little family or other resources to rely on for assistance.  We are their last hope. 

Catholic Charities Summer Lunch Program is another mobile program that seeks out those who need help the most.   For kids living in impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods, summer can mean violence, hunger and instability.  Catholic Charities seeks to change that by working with police departments, public schools and community groups to determine where children congregate, and then bringing nutritious food, health education, and physical activities to wherever they are. 
Our six Summer Lunch vehicles are equipped with healthy boxed meals, tables and chairs, games, and nutrition education materials that are set up in over 50 locations throughout the city.  When necessary, the Chicago Police Department provides security so that the children can feel safe eating and participating in the fun and educational activities. 

For many of these children, their connection with the Summer Lunch Program might be the only nutritious meal and positive experience that they have all day.  Our goal is to keep kids eating healthy, exercising their bodies and their minds, and staying off the streets and out of danger throughout the summer.   Last year we were able to reach 32,000 children with over 387,000 meals!  This summer we will help even more.
Our Mobile Outreach and Summer Lunch Programs are successful because we work in partnership with government, hospitals, schools, police departments, community agencies, volunteers and benefactors to “do what Jesus would do” and bring His light and hope directly to the doors of those who need it most.  

As we enjoy the carefree days of summer, let us not forget those who need our help.  We can all work together to transform lives with the love and healing power of the risen Christ.  

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