When we think of people who are homeless, we often think of an image of someone standing on a street corner with a sign asking for money or people living in a tent or on a mattress under an overpass. Sometimes we have further thoughts of what happens to these people, how did they get where they are, and who takes care of them. These folks are the forgotten souls living in our Catholic community. Most of the homeless are struggling with an addiction or mental illness that has overtaken their lives, and are unable to get back on their feet.
In our Catholic community, Ozanam Inn provides daily shelter for approximately 120 men who are homeless. Many of these men are graduates of our Catholic schools but have lost their way. Some are victims of abusive family environments, others are war veterans, and still others are former skilled workers or professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, or engineers. The purpose of the Ozanam Inn is to provide these men with a place to stay, provide clean clothes, and give them an opportunity to get off the street.
William graduated from a well-known Catholic high school in the City of New Orleans. Thereafter, he joined the Army and later worked at several restaurants. During his work-life, he became an alcoholic and eventually was homeless. William went to the Ozanam Inn, which helped him get back on his feet. He was able to get a job and then was married. Subsequently, his wife had several surgeries. A few nights after his wife was recovering from one of the surgeries, William woke up and saw his wife dead on the floor. He was in total shock and returned to drinking daily. He lost his job and his home and was back on the street. William went to Ozanam Inn a second time for help. He stayed there for three months as a volunteer resident and was able to get back on his feet, secure a job, and has a bright future. During his second stay at the Ozanam Inn, I was able to meet with William several times who described his life journey and how important the Ozanam Inn was for him to no longer be homeless and get back on his feet.
The Ozanam Inn relies upon our Catholic community to help the homeless men they serve to try to get them off the street and be productive members of our community. The needs are great, but the helpers are few. The evening meal for the homeless at the Ozanam Inn consists of a sandwich and donuts. There is no hot meal service for them. We all know the value of nutrition and leading to a healthy life.
We are asking our Parish for ten volunteers to provide a hot meal to the homeless at the Ozanam Inn one Thursday night per month. We need cooks and servers. The meal service begins at 5:30 p.m. and ends an hour later.
The rewards for the volunteers at the Ozanam Inn are great in this ministry. By reaching out to the homeless in our Catholic community, who have the greatest needs, the Lord will provide many blessings and graces to those in direct service of His will. As our Lord said: Whoever helps the least of my brethren is helping me.
To volunteer for the ministry to help the homeless at the Ozanam Inn please call the Church office at 899-1378 and leave your name and phone number. We will notify you of a brief organizational meeting at the Rectory in the next two weeks.
Thanks to all for considering our request to serve the neediest people in our community.
Deacon Rich Eason