Archive for the ‘Housing’ Category
Jesuits have recently provided 127 flood-affected families with new homes in Raichur, India. Residents there lost their homes in late 2009 when flooding swept through the southwestern region of the country.
The Jesuits in the region have been working for the last two years to help rebuild the homes, especially for the poorest in the community.
“We are handing over 127 houses in Manvi and Sindanoor subdistrict,” said Jesuit Father Eric Mathias, director of the Centre for Non Formal and Continuing Education, a Jesuit-run non-governmental organization (NGO).
“We have been given a lovely house with a bedroom, hall and kitchen. This is a great gift to all of us who had no shelter, said Arogyappa, one of the beneficiaries.
Each home cost 150,000 rupees (US $3,000). Ninety percent of the funds to build the homes were provided by the Jesuit-run center, the rest came from donations.
Hampayya Nayak, a local legislator, praised the Jesuits for their efforts during the handing over ceremony in late February.
“I appreciate the Jesuits’ commitment to the cause of the poor. They have shown people through their work where God is really found.”
Mortgage lending as mission? Call it a sign of the times, but Jesuit Father James Walsh, a practicing attorney and veteran social activist, has made foreclosure relief for struggling families in Boston’s economically distressed neighborhoods his latest foray into social ministry.
“About three years ago we realized the banks had been bailed out, but they weren’t doing anything,” explains Fr. Walsh, who serves on the board of Boston Community Capital, a community development finance institution — what Walsh calls a “non-bank bank” — chartered to invest and lend in poor communities.
“Traditional banks weren’t making mortgage loans in low-income neighborhoods. There were few alternatives for the poor. And Boston Community Capital strives to be a hedge fund for the poor. So we realized BCC needed to become a mortgage company — to stabilize communities and help families stay in their homes.”
BCC, which also makes small-business and community-development loans, as well as venture investments through its equity funds, became a licensed mortgage lender in 2009 and, through its Stabilizing Urban Neighborhoods (SUN) program, began buying properties facing foreclosure at deeply discounted prices. Reselling the properties back to their residents on more amenable terms, SUN also underwrites new mortgages at affordable rates. More than $15 million has been lent so far and about 135 families have been spared foreclosure and eviction. Families repurchasing their homes through BCC typically reduce their monthly mortgage payments by almost half. “There have been no defaults,” adds Fr. Walsh.
It’s not teaching or preaching, but the plain-spoken Jesuit priest sees this work as wholly within the charisms of the Society of Jesus. “It’s about faith in the service of justice,” says Walsh.
In the quarter-century Walsh has served as a director, BCC has grown its assets from $30 million to more than $600 million and won recognition as a national model.
Fr. Walsh continues to pray that more people of good will and more resources will be dedicated to the Jesuit work of social justice, at age 68, he has few regrets. “It’s been a good trip for me because I’ve learned so many things that I never would have learned,” says the ever-inquisitive Fr. Walsh. “I’m an introvert by nature. I’m a Jesuit who’s never even had a checkbook. Yet I’ve had a chance to learn about finance, and to learn about the law and real estate, and so much more. It’s like a whole new world was opened up for me. Because I took some chances,” he said. “I can’t imagine how nerdy I’d be if I’d played it safe and gotten a Ph.D. in the philosophy of science, like I’d planned.”
Ann Arbor-based nonprofit International Samaritan (I.S.) was granted Special Consultative Status from the United Nations in September, recognized by the UN as an important voice in issues pertaining to poverty relief.
“We are privileged to join with the United Nations and other NGOs in the fight to help alleviate severe poverty in developing countries,” said I.S. Founder and President Jesuit Father Don Vettese, who grew up in Detroit and taught at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School for many years prior to starting I.S.
I.S. was awarded consultative status for its role in helping the UN work toward achieving its Millennium Goals, including eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and developing global partnerships for development.
The only nonprofit in the world whose work is focused on garbage dump communities, I.S. helps hundreds of thousands of people who live in garbage dump squalor across the globe. According the UN statistics, I.S. serves some of the most poverty stricken people on the earth. The nonprofit builds homes, schools, nurseries, medical facilities, community centers, adult training schools and funds microloan and food programs. They also organize service learning trips and medical brigades to garbage dump communities in seven countries. More than 95% of the donations I.S. receives go directly to its poverty relief programs.
“There are many people who have never heard about the garbage dump dwellers, the children forced to dig through trash for food, and entire families living in garbage dumps with rats, vultures, and pigs. These places do exist. We hope, in some small way, this status will give voice to those who have no voice,” said Vettese.
I.S. representatives will be granted passes to UN meetings, able to speak at designated UN sessions, and have certain documents circulated as official UN documents. They will also have the opportunity to be a part of a larger NGO community for the purposes of information sharing and partnering on poverty relief programs.
“There is so much good that can be accomplished if we open our minds and hearts to work with those in need who are fighting for a life with dignity and hope,” said Vettese. “We invite everyone to join us by volunteering on one of our service trips, donating to our poverty relief programs, and praying for us and those we serve.”
For more information about International Samaritan, please visit their website.
On August 29, 2005, New Orleans experienced one of the worse natural disasters in U.S. history. While the city escaped a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina, the rising waters breached the levees that surround the city, leaving 80 percent of New Orleans under water. Five years later, New Orleans is a city rebuilding.
There has been a strong Jesuit presence in New Orleans from the days of the city’s founding over 300 years ago. The Jesuits have been in New Orleans in times of crisis like typhoid and yellow fever outbreaks at the turn of the 19th century and when the city flooded previously in the 1920s. Jesuit works like Good Shepherd Nativity School, which provides educational opportunities to disadvantaged children in the city, and Café Reconcile, a youth training program that provides on the job training in its restaurant, continue to help the city look toward a vibrant future. Schools like Loyola University and Jesuit High School continue to provide top notch education opportunities, while the Harry Thompson Center, a day shelter for the city’s homeless, reach out to the city’s most vulnerable. Today, the Jesuits continue to serve the spiritual needs of people of New Orleans and will continue be there for the city as it rebuilds and recovers.
National Jesuit News highlights the outreach and the dedication of the New Orleans Jesuits in the video piece below and provides a comprehensive overview of the Jesuit works in New Orleans five years after Katrina in the article following the video below.
English Canada Jesuit provincial superior Fr. Jim Webb, and his right hand man, or socius, Fr. Peter Bisson have been living in a three-bedroom apartment in one of Toronto’s poorest neighborhoods for 10 months.
Webb believes the Jesuit vow of poverty has to be more than a theory. “If you say that material things are not important but then there’s no sign of it, it lacks credibility,” he said.
Greater credibility translates into vocations, said Webb. “Our commitment to social justice and solidarity with the poor is very strong,” he said. “In terms of vocations, I think that is one of the things that is attracting younger people to the Jesuits.”
“In an age of materialism and consumerism, it’s an important statement,” he said. “It has an apostolic value. People see that you could have something and you’re choosing not to. It says something.”
To read more about Fr. Webb’s committment to the vow of poverty, please go here.