News Articles

Think Outside of the Shelter: Catholic Charities Confronts Homelessness

by Catherine Kirch

Catholic Charities USA has started a new experimental program to confront chronic homelessness in five cities across the country, including Detroit, Michigan; Las Vegas, Nevada; Portland, Oregon; Spokane, Washington; and St. Louis, Missouri. This program works to place those facing homelessness in stable housing situations and support their basic needs.

In addition to helping the homeless towards stability and self-sufficiency, one of the major benefits of this program is reducing the burden of health care costs. Because individuals and families facing homelessness often do not have reliable access to medical services, they often turn to hospital emergency rooms to get their health care needs met.

By working to provide people with supportive services, the experimental Catholic Charities program reduces hospital readmissions and consequently cuts down on the costs of care. Specifically, these health care costs are estimated to be reduced from $250,000 per year to $8,000 per year when those facing homelessness are in stable settings.

The Importance of Stability

Finding stability is crucial for people facing homelessness. While over 63,000 spend the night in New York City’s shelters, an estimated 4,000 still sleep on the streets every night. As temperatures continue to drop, spending the night in the cities public spaces and subway systems becomes increasingly dangerous.

Unfortunately, even those in shelters face dangerous situations. New York City shelters can vary widely in terms of quality and safety. A special report in The City this week exposes the difficult, dangerous, and sometimes violent conditions in the 30th Street Men’s Shelter, among others. Initiatives like Catholic Charities USA’s experimental program work to break the shelter cycle and bring those facing homelessness closer to independence.

Not Just Temporary Solutions

While Catholic Charities New York supports reliable temporary and emergency shelters, CCNY also offers transitional residence programs to support New Yorkers as they overcome crisis and build stability.

Covenant House is one such organization, providing a continuum of care to bring young people from crisis to independence. This Catholic Charities agency works both to meet urgent needs, including medical care, and to provide transitional housing where youth learn to support themselves so they can live independently.

Catholic Charities New York also works proactively to prevent homelessness through creating and preserving affordable housing options, as well as helping those at risk of being evicted. The Preserving Housing program works with individuals and families facing immediate eviction by connecting them with legal services and creating plans to both prevent eviction and avoid future crises.

It is important to recognize that traditional emergency shelters are not the only solution in the efforts to combat homelessness. As we continue to support New Yorkers in crisis, we must not only provide temporary solutions, but also work to help our neighbors find long-term stability and independence.

To learn more about Catholic Charities New York, please visit the CCNY website.