At this terribly difficult time in the world, we at Mepkin are counting our blessings. Two of the great gifts that we have is our brotherhood together and the fact that we have somewhere to stay, to eat, to sleep, and to pray. Two powerful articles I read recently brought home to me very strongly the challenges faced by people who are homeless at this time
The first article comes from The New York Times on March 24. It features the work of the Italian lay community, The St. Egidio Community. I have had much involvement with that community in the past, and I was pleased to see an interview with Francesca Zuccari, who coordinates the services for those who live in extreme poverty. Francesca, along with her colleagues, is a remarkable woman. She said in her article that eight thousand people typically live on Rome’s now empty streets. “The message is given to stay at home. That is a message they can’t respond to, because they don’t have any home to go to. The problem is that these are the most fragile members of the population, and they are the most exposed.” Francesca talks about how the Roman shelters and soup kitchens remain open, but the informal support structures have fallen apart, like spare change dropped in a cup, or a paid-for breakfast pastry. The closing of bars and restaurants restricts access to restrooms. Francesca writes, “Citizens keep being told to wash their hands, but the homeless don’t have anywhere to go to wash their hands.” Additionally, in Rome, Pope Francis has opened several shelters for the homeless and soup kitchens near the Vatican. His almoner, who supervises the Papal charities, has been giving of himself tirelessly in the service of the poor and the needy.
Another article brought this situation closer to home for me. On the 22nd of March, The Post and Courier had a very good article by Jerrel Floyd, “Homeless Shelters Pressured by Coronavirus.” In the article, Floyd talked about our own Berkeley County and spoke about how many homeless people are living in the woods; there are no homeless shelters in Berkeley County. The closest large shelter is One80 Place in Charleston, which can house up to a hundred people. At One80 Place, they have had to increase sanitation and monitor food distribution, as the food is now given out in containers to promote as much distancing as they can. The charity has a very good website, and they are open to donations of food or money for their work.
These two articles really got me thinking of the difficulties that many people might be experiencing at this time. People that we mightn’t think of too often. Let us be conscious in our prayers and in our charity of the homeless, who have no place to stay and no place to wash their hands.