Dear Friends of Joseph House:
Here we are in the middle of winter, and although it can be a dreary time of year, there are also treasures to behold, such as the pale colors of the winter sky and the muffled stillness of freshly fallen snow.
When we are out and about in the frosty air, another welcome pleasure is coming back to a warm and toasty house. The enveloping warmth is like an embrace, and it never fails to make us feel grateful that we have a safe and secure place to live. We call it a convent, but it is home, and it means more than simply having a roof over our heads.
The blessings of a home are deep and formative. In his book, Against An Infinite Horizon, Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, gives a heartfelt description of how he was blessed by where he was raised:
“I grew up in an immigrant farming community. We were a large family and lived in a small two-story farmhouse…It wasn’t a luxurious house by any stretch of the imagination. It had no indoor plumbing, bad central heating, and barely enough space for so large a family. But it was snug, real snug, and as a child, surrounded always by so many family members, I always felt secure in that house. It was indeed a home, our place, my place, a place where I was away from the world. Perhaps that phrase best captures the feelings of that house, of any real home: it’s a place where you’re away from the world. It’s your place to be comfortable in, to be sick in, to fight with your family in, to cry in, to dream both night dreams and daydreams in, to be snug in. That is what it means to be at home, and the house I grew up in gave me that security.
“I remember especially the feelings I sometimes had on certain winter days, when it was too cold and stormy for the school bus to operate and we would stay home from school. Few of my memories are as warm and precious as those. The cold wind raging outside, all of the elements so fierce and hostile, and me inside, secure and surrounded by family, warm and snug, smelling the wood stove and my mother’s cooking as I lounged on my bed or pushed my face against a frosted window to stare at the blizzard. What was happening outside, the cold, snow, and wind, highlighted the warmth and safety of that house. I was as warm and safe as a baby inside the womb—and, on those stormy days, almost as peaceful and secure.”
Everyone needs a place to call home, a place to feel snug on cold winter days. But not everyone does. Housing for some people is chaotic and unstable, even to the point of becoming homeless. There are many reasons why. For the poor, at the top of the list is the severe lack of affordable housing. Only 35 affordable housing units are available for every 100 extremely poor households. And people in need cannot rely on government programs, since only 25% of those poor enough to be eligible for housing assistance receive it. These figures come from The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.
At the Joseph House, we see all the time people who are working or living on a fixed income (because of age or disability) who are paying 50 to 90% of their income on rent. This guarantees that they are going to have trouble paying for other necessities, such as food, utilities, and health care.
We help a lot of families who are going through a housing crisis. We help pay their back rents to prevent an eviction. We pay the other bills they can’t afford to pay. We help with the substantial move-in costs if they need to settle in a new place. When there are no other options, we pay for their temporary lodging in a motel. “We” also means you because you make it possible!
Samuel, 44, has lost 60 pounds since being diagnosed with cancer. He can no longer work and is worried about providing for his three children. We contributed $200 toward his rent (eviction papers had been filed) and paid his $150 water bill to keep the water from being shut off.
Emily, 35, and her five children needed to move because their rental was not a fit place to live. The rent at their new place will be $850, taken from her monthly income of $1,500. In order to get the electricity turned on, an old bill of $350 needed to be paid, so we paid it. The temperature that day was 24 degrees and Emily and her children were in their shirt sleeves. We gave them all heavy coats plus hats, gloves, and Christmas presents.
Having to contend with substandard housing is common for people with low incomes. Zaria, 57, lives in a house with a broken furnace. The landlord is very slow in making repairs. Zaria has to use a space heater to keep warm, which runs up her electric bill. We helped with $200 toward the amount.
Claire, 44, has a rare blood disease. The rent takes every penny of her monthly $750 in disability. She depends totally on Food Stamps (SNAP) and food pantries for groceries. Utilities? She has to beg from churches and charities and it’s whatever she can get. The electricity in her home was due to be cut off the day Claire came to see us. We called the electric company and paid $300 immediately.
Dennis, 27, is self-employed cleaning houses for a living. There aren’t enough hours in a day for him to earn what he needs to provide for his wife and five children. If not for temporary welfare benefits, his family would have no heat or electricity in their home. Dennis is looking for better paying work. In the meantime, he fell behind in the rent and received an eviction notice. We sent $180 to the landlord to buy Dennis time to find a new job.
The Earth is the common home that everyone shares. With everything going on in the world, it doesn’t always feel like “home sweet home.” But now is the time to let our light shine, to be committed to the Beatitudes, peacemaking, bridge building, and the good of all people. Trusting in God’s providence, let us remain united in hope.
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
Checks issued to assist with critical needs
Bags of groceries given out
Average number of households per month receiving food
Service requests at our Hospitality Room for the Homeless (showers, laundry, clothing, food)
Children receiving Christmas gift bags
Winter coats given out
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