How Compassion Changed The Face Of Homelessness

How an emergency shelter brought human dignity and love to the homeless



What is meant by human dignity?

Human dignity is the recognition that human beings possess a special value intrinsic to their humanity and as such are worthy of respect simply because they are human beings. … Thus every human being, regardless of age, ability, status, gender, ethnicity, etc., is to be treated with respect.

No one wants to talk about homelessness. It’s a serious problem in the United States. We can’t wish it away or pretend we don’t know it’s there.

Please give me a few minutes of your time to share a personal story about how compassion changed the face of homelessness.

I live in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Its glory days have long passed. On a small scale, it’s like every city across the country. It has tourists and casinos, which most don’t, but we’re run down and worn out. Covid-19 made it worse.

New Jersey has one of the highest poverty rates in the country. The vast majority of workers are low-wage. Atlantic City has one of the highest homeless rates in the state. We also have a serious addiction problem.

Here’s how compassion changed things around.

Atlantic City is one of the hardest places to survive being homeless. There are few resources for them. Food is scarce and so is shelter.

Gentrification has worked tirelessly to remove soup kitchens, boarding homes, and needle exchanges. Then the pandemic came compounding the problem.

Soon people were sleeping in shrubbery and on sidewalks. The city’s response was to cut down the shrubs.

Our local hospital stepped in offering compassionate solutions of mental healthcare, addiction treatment, social services, and covid-19 vaccinations.

Last winter our one homeless shelter was overrun with people. The city reached out to the Sisters of the Franciscan Renewal to ask for help. They agreed to open a temporary homeless shelter for the winter, which continues this winter.

I know the Sisters well from their outreach programs for the poor in the city. I’ve volunteered…