Pilgrims on the Journey to Self-Sufficiency
Wednesday, January 01, 2014 by Monsignor Michael M. Boland

“We are pilgrims on the journey, We are brothers on the road, We are here to help each other, Walk the mile and bear the load.”  These beautiful lyrics are from the Servant Song written by Richard Gillard.  Whenever I hear this poignant hymn, my thoughts immediately turn to those we serve at Catholic Charities.  For many people who seek our assistance, their path to wholeness and self-sufficiency is not a quick-fix, but rather an extended journey that requires compassionate guidance and professional services to address multiple needs.

 Perhaps there is no journey more difficult than coming from a state of homelessness to finding permanent housing and maintaining self-sufficiency.   A safe and stable home is the necessary foundation for human dignity and human life to thrive—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  When a person or family becomes homeless, all their attention and energy must now go toward sheltering themselves from the elements.  Everything else—from employment, to health care, to education—must be put on hold. 

 A question I’m often asked is: “How do people become homeless?”  The major problem for most moderate- or low-income families is lack of any kind of back-up support.  For them, almost any emergency could trigger their inability to consistently pay rent or a mortgage, and therefore cause homelessness: a major medical expense, unexpected job loss, loss of child care—things that could happen to any of us.  Most middle-class families can bounce back, but for the working poor, or for families experiencing domestic violence, substance abuse, or chronic or serious illness, there is no safety net. 

For more than 95 years, it has been the mission of Catholic Charities to be that safety net for individuals and families with nowhere else to turn, walking with them side-by-side, and restoring them to self-reliance and the fullness of their God-given human dignity. 

The hundreds of people served each year in Catholic Charities homeless and self-sufficiency programs not only receive a warm bed and a place to call home, but they also participate in intensive services that strike at the roots of homelessness such as substance abuse treatment and counseling; parenting and life-skills training; budgeting, saving, and financial planning; and education, job training, and job placement into living wage jobs.  Our highly trained professional and wonderfully compassionate staff members help people work through their struggles day in and day out, so that they may begin to rebuild their lives, find gainful employment, and plan for a better future for themselves and for their families.   

On January 26, Catholic Charities will host the 13th Annual d’Vine Affair: A Tasting of Fine Wines, which specifically supports our programs that help people transition from poverty to self-sufficiency.   At the event, we will celebrate the many accomplishments of struggling families, some of whom were formerly homeless, and help raise funds so that many more people can be served. 

In the words of Renee, a recent graduate of our Family Self Sufficiency Program in Lake County, “Sometimes all a person needs is a chance, some guidance on how to make life better, and some encouragement.  Forget a hand out, just give me a hand up!  I was counted out years ago…but look at me now!  I am so proud of me!”

            There is no greater gift than to be the helping hand for Renee and other families on their journey from poverty to self-sufficiency.  Catholic Charities is privileged to provide the compassionate support and professional services that help our brothers and sisters “walk the mile and bear the load.” Please pray for our homeless neighbors during these cold winter months and consider joining Catholic Charities mission to serve those most in need.

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