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How James Addison Moved from Homelessness to Operations Manager

Posted on June 6, 2017 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Meet Mr. Addison and More in This Special LEFSA Bicentennial Video

Watch LEFSA’s powerful bicentennial video now

When New York City homelessness meant thousands of men and women huddled under blankets on city streets back in 1986 and shelters meant massive auditoriums crowded with cries of those struggling with mental illness, addiction and misfortune, two nuns struck out to make a difference.  Check out these powerful memories from homeless men whose lives were forever changed by these nuns and the Catholic Charities affiliated agency, Life Experience and Faith Sharing Associates, (LEFSA), these inspired women created to serve them.

James Addison, formally homeless, now LEFSA Operations Manager:

"Now you have to remember we were in the worst city shelter at the time called Fort Washington Men’s Shelter. This shelter housed 1,000 men; its nickname was ‘The House of Pain.’

Most of the people there were black and Hispanic and you have these two white sisters come there and they’re short and they’re small. They always came; you knew they were coming every Tuesday.

They had been asking me to come to these meetings but I wasn’t ready at that time. But this time I was ready.

I went to that meeting because I knew I needed a change but I didn’t know how to change.  One of the best decisions I ever made in my life.

I look at Sister Dorothy and Sister Teresa.  They were called here; it was something inside of them that wanted to do more and work directly with people.

 When you can get a group of homeless people to come up from the ashes and can show this kind of love to one another it’s powerful. There’s nothing like it when you see people others gave up on whose lives are being changed. We’re here together and making each other better."

Long before Catholic Charities’ formal incorporation in 1917, laymen and women, clergy and religious, devoted themselves to serving the downtrodden.  In this special video, the Sisters of Charity that founded our affiliate, LEFSA, celebrate their bicentennial, 1817 – 2017, by shining a light on those who others rarely see.

Sister Regina Bechtle, Sisters of Charity:

"They would just gather folks around, invite them to sit in a circle, invite them to talk to each others.  Slowly their work began to build a spirit of community.  They had the incredible gift of being able to identify and inspire people from the homeless community and say ‘You can do this work too; you can be part of this work.’"

Life Experience and Faith Sharing Associates (LEFSA) is a non-profit, interdenominational, empowerment ministry that serves people who are homeless living in city-sponsored shelters and on the streets of New York City.  LEFSA was founded in September 1986 as a response to the massive situation of homelessness which existed in NYC at that time and continues to exist today.

Mario Pimentel, formally homeless, now a LEFSA Team Member:

"One day I sat in the group and I just started listening.  Then I started opening up and things started getting a little better just because people were listening.

I started getting confidence in myself, started not looking at myself as a waste and a failure; that I had more to live for.

I try to give back what they gave to me. I can’t explain how much LEFSA has done for me. On my first retreat I went out of the city and finally got an outlook of how good life can be.

I can’t keep what I’ve got in - I give it away. I try to give back what they gave to me.

  • Since 2002 the number of New Yorkers in shelter rose 73%
  • 59,373 people homeless in New York City shelters
  • 12,913 families homeless in New York City
  • 22,000 homeless New York City children 

Sister Jane Iannucelli, Sisters of Charity President:

"Their vision was that people who were homeless need to hear that God cares about them and God loves them.

Each of us is called here to be part of the more, to be part of what makes the world a better place.

Charity isn’t just giving. It’s calling people to become the best they can be."

As we celebrate our centennial this year Catholic Charities continues to evolve to solve the problems of New Yorkers in need. Among our deepened commitment to help and hope in the 21st Century we are working with our affiliated agencies like LEFSA and more to help the homeless and move the formerly street homeless to stable beds.

We invite you to join our celebration as Catholic Charities embarks on a new century of help and hope

Find out more about our special affiliate, Life Experience and Faith Sharing Associates, (LEFSA)