SMC fosters discussion on homelessness
Martha Reilly | Friday, April 8, 2016
Saint Mary’s students hosted a panel discussion on homelessness in South Bend on Thursday evening. Panelists included representatives from St. Margaret’s House, the Youth Service Bureau, Our Lady of the Road and the Center for the Homeless.
Kathy Schneider, executive director of St. Margaret’s House, said she hopes to provide women and children with far more than basic necessities: She also wants to promote bonding and friendship.
“The most important thing that we do is form a community of people who care about each other,” Schneider said. “I think that is more important than any services we provide.”
According to Schneider, 24 percent of the people who come to St. Margaret’s House are homeless, which reflects the flaws in the housing market of South Bend.
“It’s very expensive,” Schneider said. “People get into homes thinking ‘This is the answer,’ and it’s really hard. There are a lot of reasons people can’t stay housed.”
Mary Hicks, a guest at St. Margaret’s House, said the center played an integral role in helping her turn her life around.
“They treated me like I was a person,” Hicks said. “I found my way back. I have a job. I have my own place.”
Hicks said her struggle taught her that establishments such as St. Margaret’s House serve as essential resources.
“People that are homeless need places like this because I didn’t know where else to go,” Hicks said.
Homelessness and unemployment are related issues, Hicks said, because many people can no longer afford to pay rent after they are fired.
“People live on the edge,” Hicks said. “Sometimes there can be one thing that goes wrong, and there’s just no safety net.”
Christin Kloski, community involvement and volunteer coordinator at the Center for the Homeless, said she works with men, women and families as they try to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency. Kloski said the Center for the Homeless prepares residents for life after they move out, even providing them with job applications and conducting mock interviews.
“We help to serve the homeless and provide opportunities to more than 275 individuals every day,” Kloski said. “The mission of the center is to break that cycle of homelessness.”
Brady August, who directs the street outreach program for the Youth Service Bureau of St. Joseph County, said the program encourages young people to recognize their strengths and resolve their problems before they enter a dangerous cycle of drug and alcohol abuse.
“I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could try to catch them when they’re in their teenage years?’” August said. “The mission is to target people [ages] 16 to 24 who are in need or at risk of becoming homeless. We do this through trying to build or establish relationships with young people.”
August said individuals who witness violence during childhood may continue to suffer from this trauma, which could hinder their ability to succeed.
“They’ve never been to Afghanistan, they’ve never been to Iraq, but they’ve seen people shot in their neighborhoods,” August said. “Guns go off all the time. They’re in a war zone.”
Matthew Insley, a staff member at Our Lady of the Road, a ministry of the St. Peter Claver Catholic Worker serving as a house of hospitality for those needing a place to stay indefinitely, said the individualistic structure of society contributes to the problem of homelessness.
Insley said he encourages everyone to unite in a selfless response to others’ needs because this can reduce the number of people struggling to find or afford a place to live.
“Begin to make people’s issues your issues,” Insley said. “That’s what we’re all about at the Catholic Worker.”