by Kelly McLaughlin
Ever since Depaul USA opened its doors in 2009 in Germantown, a tapestry of love has been weaving hope into the lives of many Philadelphians who walk through their doors. Depaul House, Depaul USA’s transitional housing program, located at 5725 Sprague St., welcomes homeless men of all denominations.
“People may think of homelessness as stemming from addictions, but often it is from circumstances above one’s control,” said Peggy Robertson, Director of Development. Depaul USA is part of Depaul International, a group of charities working to support homeless and marginalized people around the world. The Depaul Group, now Depaul International, traces its formation to 1989 as a response to the growing number of young people sleeping on the streets of London. Depaul International now works with over 7,000 homeless people in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Slovakia, Ukraine and the U.S.
When Mother Teresa of Calcutta was alive, and even in her passing, she embodied the principle of treating every individual with respect, love and dignity. This is also the message of Saint Vincent de Paul, whose values guide the work of Depaul International and Depaul USA. From the mental health and case management services, to the arts and educational aspect of the program, Depaul House weaves a tapestry of hope, faith and love into many lives.
All individuals, even the volunteers, help create an atmosphere that is intimate and sets Depaul House apart from other housing programs. Miss Beth, a retired school teacher, is one of the dedicated staff volunteers who weave hope into individuals’ lives, as she encourages adult students to focus more on their creative talents, and therefore pick up or perhaps refine, the creative and practical tools for the men to form their own paths. The men stay for an average of seven months, and this facility can support up to 25 men at one time.
Sandra Guillory, Program Director at Depaul House, told me, “This past winter, we partnered with Project H.O.M.E. to operate a temporary emergency women’s shelter where homeless women have a place off the streets between January and April. And the goal of this is to transition women to more stable housing.” Depaul House provided two program counselors to the program to provide case management and support services.
Robertson, Guillory and, Chuck Levesque, Executive Director of Depaul, concurred that similar to the message of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Saint Vincent de Paul also desires to serve the poor. The preserving of one’s dignity, love and respect that permeates the house is what drives staff members as well as volunteers, to come back to this organization. Most of us are familiar with the recent news story of Ted Williams, the homeless man from Ohio with the spectacular voice. Who knows how many other homeless individuals have yet to be able to express their special talents?
It comes naturally to us to want to give back to the individuals or organizations that touched our lives, and it is natural to share our stories with others in the hopes that they might learn about ones’ ordeals, giving them help and hope for whatever they are experiencing whether it be homelessness or the struggles of daily survival. A former resident, Mr. Williams, not to be confused with Ted Williams (either the speaker or the baseball icon), is one of the individuals who believe in giving back to the organization that gave so much to him.
“When I came here I was down because I made some mistakes in my life, but Depaul House got me back on my feet. It was really the one-on-one teaching that benefited me most; everyone was so pleasant towards me, and program counselors helped me with my résumé along with checking my credit.”
Mr. Williams is now a maintenance worker at a local hospital and is sharing his story to whomever will listen. He is just one of the many examples of growth that Depaul House is weaving into its rich tapestry. From the creative arts program to the educational aspects of financial planning, leadership roles and further learning, the tapestry of hope is created as individual dreams are woven anew.
In the words of volunteer Miss Beth, “I have fun when I come here, and perhaps when we have fun, maybe we are doing a little good as well. Each resident and each staff member strives to build an environment rich in positive attitudes and experiences.”
For more information, call 215-438-1955 or visit www.depaulusa.org.
Kelly McLaughlin is a sightless freelance writer, graduate of Springfield Township High School and resident of Erdenheim