Last night while driving over the 14th Street bridge and making my way home, I noticed that the temperature read 23 degrees. I had plans to bundle up and head for a run with a friend. But as I sat in traffic and watched the temperature fluctuate between 23 and 26 degrees I began to think otherwise. There I was, sitting in my warm car, with great music on in the background, and choosing between “bundling up” and running outside, or making my way to the gym. At the very same time, many of our city’s poor were wondering if they would find a bed for the evening – a place to rest and escape the blustering winds for at least the night hours.
Unfortunately, the need for warmth and security offered by shelters is great. On an average night, over 1,300 beds are provided through a Catholic Charities program throughout the archdiocese. Some of the people who seek the warmth of the shelters have been homeless for years, while others have simply fallen on hard times and need an opportunity to get back on their feet. Some suffer with serious mental illnesses and others struggle with addictive behaviors. Some are men and others are women. The one thing that remains the same – Jesus is present in each person. Not only is He present in our city’s poor, but Jesus calls out to us and begs us to rediscover His presence in those struggling to survive on our city’s streets.
Since our nights are getting colder and the need for beds is growing, Catholic Charities is responding by opening additional emergency shelters. Warm Hands, Friendly Faces is a new volunteer initiative that has been created to help provide these beds and extend the light of Christ to the homeless as they come in form the cold. Volunteers are currently being recruited to assist Catholic Charities staff members with tasks around the shelters and be a warm presence for its visitors.
Is God calling you to be a friendly face and extend your hands to our city’s poor? If God is inviting you to this volunteer ministry, consider responding. This might be an opportunity to meet Him in a new way. As Blessed Teresa taught us, “In the poor, we meet Jesus—not a reminder of Jesus, not a symbol of Jesus, but Jesus himself, face-to-face, hungering for our love, thirsting for our kindness, waiting to be clothed by our compassion.”
E-mail [email protected] for more information.