Research Paper: Simon Communities in Ireland

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[. . .] With the establishment of the Catholic Worker Movement, Houses of Hospitality sprang throughout many cities in America. These establishments provided people with food, clothing, a roof over their head, and above everything else, a sense of union and companionship. The Houses of Hospitality were in fact part of a larger project on behalf of the Catholic Worker Movement that thrived on combating social injustice. Dorothy Day said about the project that ?it just came about. It just happened. (as quoted in Troester 3) And in the next years, over a hundred houses will happen to welcome homeless people in Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, South Bend, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and others (Troester 4). It is important to understand that homeless people were as well expected to pay attention to the religious foundations of the movement. Dorothy Day thought it was essential for homeless people to understand that they were in fact expected to participate in the movement's enactment of a new system. In so doing, Dorothy believed that the religious philosophical foundations were necessary for people to depict the world around and the principles of the Catholic Worker Movement. World War II forced a large number of the houses to close down due to economic difficulties but from 1945 thereon the movement continued its work of promoting pacifism and criticizing social injustice.

Dorothy Day's autobiography, The Long Loneliness, inspired two men in 1979 to establish a shelter for homeless people in Atlanta. Murphy Davis and his friend Ed had visited a Christian Worker House of Hospitality named Maryhouse earlier that year and, upon departure, were given a copy of the book. They were impressed by the reading and much of what Dorothy touched on in the book reverberated in the men's thoughts and hearts. They decided the homeless people in Atlanta needed similar support and sheltering. Having passed the bureaucracy system, the night shelter opened in late 1979, on November the 1st. The Clifton Presbyterian Church of which they corresponded officially as pastors became officially a housing support for homeless people. As representative members, Murphy and Ed began encouraging other churches as well to offer shelter. In 1981, Atlanta saw the resurgence of another establishment in the downtown area and it was not long before other churches began sharing similar objectives. About their work, Davis wrote: home was what we sought. Hospitality was the work that called us, and we wanted a place that could become home to us, our children, and the homeless women and men who would come for food, shelter, showers, and a friendly welcome. (Davis 9) Davis and Ed were thus following a similar model to the Houses of Hospitality of the Christian Movement where not only did it matter that people have a shelter but indeed a home, a place they could feel cared for and supported.

Before the outburst of homeless shelters opening nationwide throughout the 80s, Kip Tiernan, who had worked herself as a volunteer at a male shelter in Boston in the early 1970s, opened Rosie's Place. She was surprised to find that so many women dressed in man's clothes just to benefit from the same services in shelters where only men were allowed. Rosie's Place was initially a limited mission that mainly offered coffee and second hand clothes to women. She would be later acknowledged as the first person to include and indeed address specifically homelessness in relation to women. Nowadays, the shelter serves an array of needs which include sheltering, meals, food provisioning, counseling, support to obtain housing, literacy programs, craftsmanship. Like her fellow peers aforementioned, Kid Tiernan believed and enforced that belief that homeless people did not need public sympathy but active support and encouragement to thrive as valuable members of the community despite stereotyping.

In the 1980s, leading figures whether on a smaller scale such as mayors or prominent governmental figures had no choice but to offer a solution to the countless number of people sleeping rough. Challenges existed in determining the exact number of homeless people since demographic surveys were based on analysis of specific locations and could thus not contribute to even estimating a number. By 1996 however, 40.000 homeless shelter services were known to exist in America (as quoted in Hombs 1) which accounts for the growing number of homeless people. Moreover, in 2001, ?the Annual Survey of the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported an average 15% increase nationally in demand for shelter, the largest increase since 1990. (Hombs x) In the meantime, the number of homeless shelters had increased with approximately 20.000 more. It should be noted however that most homeless shelters only allow people to sleep there over night. But establishments such as Rosie's Place, the Open Door Community which evolved from the mutual efforts of Murphy Davis and Ed, Christian Worker farms and houses, continue to offer more stable environments for people without a home. Other places, such as St. Francis House in Boston serve as daytime shelters while some are specifically focused on providing counseling, or upon victims of domestic violence, etc. Many homeless people who want a bed for the night do not always receive it due to the high demand. Others, many as well, choose to avoid homeless shelters because of the dangers and the crowd. Common establishments do not always provide lockers where people could store their belongings, making it ever harder to enjoy a good night rest while having to guard personal things. Added to this, people who do choose homeless shelters are more than often experiencing some sort of health problems, whether physical, emotional, or mental.

It is challenging and it can become difficult to either work in a homeless shelter or volunteer there. If one would be volunteering in shelters the likes of Rosie's Place or Christian Worker houses, or the Simon Community, perhaps the recurring issue of homelessness would appear less discouraging. However, the regular homeless shelters provide people with the basic necessities of food and lodging for the night while the latter have no choice but to return to the streets the following day. Notwithstanding the benefits they also imply, these homeless shelters do not really represent the effective means to reduce homelessness and eradicating it seems to be more of a utopia nowadays. There are young homeless children whose cognitive development is severely affected by such conditions and adults who experience escalation of mental illnesses or end up with health problems because of homelessness. Unfortunately, we are confronting a much more complex problem that derives out of homelessness: our societies' incapacitation to address this issue adequately. Workers in shelters can sometimes demand far too much from a person who is homeless causing the latter to be dismissed from the program. It would surprise many to find that a homeless person is a colleague at work, a schoolmate in class, a former friend, etc. While regulations are necessary to ensure the functioning of the system, they may also impoverish people who eventually turn to other solutions.

Works Cited

Blau, Joel. The Visible Poor: Homelessness in the United States. Oxford, New York, Toronto, Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Karachi, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Cape Town, Melbourne, Auckland, Madrid, Berlin, Ibadan: Oxford University Press, 1992. Print.

Davis, Murphy. Five years at 910. A Work of Hospitality: The Open Door Reader 1982-2002. Ed. Peter R. Gathje. Atlanta: The Open Door Community, 2002. 9-12. Print.

Hombs, Mary Ellen. American Homelessness: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2001. Print.

Jencks, Christopher. The Homeless. Harvard University Press, 1995. Print.

Maurin, Peter. Catholic Radicalism: Phrased Essays for the Green Revolution. New York: Catholic Worker Books, 1949. Print.

Riis, Jacob A. How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Simon Communities in Ireland.  (2013, October 23).  Retrieved July 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/simon-communities-ireland/2787770

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"Simon Communities in Ireland."  23 October 2013.  Web.  19 July 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/simon-communities-ireland/2787770>.

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"Simon Communities in Ireland."  Essaytown.com.  October 23, 2013.  Accessed July 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/simon-communities-ireland/2787770.