In downtown Los Angeles sits a 50-block area known as Skid Row where unsheltered homeless live on sidewalks, under tarps, and in tents.
A report last year by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that Los Angeles had one of the highest rates of homeless people who were found in unsheltered locations.
For more than half a century, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Los Angeles Archdiocesan Council has been working to help those who are most in need.
The Cardinal Manning Center is a homeless shelter in the Skid Row area. It opened in 1955 in a converted dairy processing plant. The center was created as a way to offer those in need an array of services designed to preserve and enhance their dignity and self-worth while also helping them become physically, emotionally, and economically better adjusted.
The center is funded mainly by donations from the public. Funding also comes from grants from local foundations as well as a small grant from the federal government.
The center offers a comprehensive program for homeless men transitioning off the streets and into housing through transitional housing and intensive case management services. The center serves 65 homeless men at a time.
Men who are accepted into the center are presently homeless, and many have been for years. They also suffer from a myriad of other issues. Those could include physical ailments, mental illness, legal troubles, substance abuse, financial troubles, and educational issues.
Services provided through the center are free of charge. Upon entering the center, each resident is assigned a case manager who will work with them to assess their needs and develop an individualized case plan.
The case plan will identify what issues the resident wishes to work on and in which order, according to Njambi Kingori, Los Angeles Council deputy director of social services at the center.
Systemic change is a process that aims to achieve a radical transformation in the lives of those living in poverty. Systemic change goes beyond looking at short-term needs of food, clothing, and shelter to identifying and resolving the root causes of poverty (such as needing education, a job, and stable finances).
These new long-term strategies include mentoring, collaboration with other organizations with similar aims, and advocacy to change unjust systems. The goal is to move people permanently out of poverty by empowering them to improve themselves, to make life changes, and mentoring them to take on roles leading to self-sustainability.
These programs have helped and will continue to help individuals on a new journey out of poverty into self-sufficiency.
“All the principles of systemic change are expressed through the programming at the CMC,” Kingori said. “In addition to moving homeless men from the streets to a shelter, our efforts are to help identify their individual needs, linking them to medical, mental, and substance abuse treatment, housing resources, benefit establishment, employment preparedness, education and vocational training programs, mentorship, and other services.”
Leon, who left homelessness for housing through the center, said, “The CMC makes you feel like you are part of a family. You can always come in. Even after I got my place, I still do that. I still come in and do whatever I can do. This is a safe haven and I can talk to people about anything.”
Working together with the residents during their stay, the center’s staff assists them in learning to advocate for themselves and to develop those skills that will carry them forward in their lives and possibly advocate for others in need.
Through the center and other social service agencies in the Los Angeles area, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Los Angeles Archdiocesan Council works with those in need to help them move out of poverty and improve their lives.
“Now I’m giving back to the community. I’ve been doing outreach with AmeriCorps during the past year, and that really takes up a lot of my time. … [I’m] in a position where I can be of service and work with a team of people who have the same goal in mind,” said Leon, the former homeless person. “I have a passion for it now. It’s in my blood. That’s what is really important.”
BY THE NUMBERS:
Last year, the Cardinal Manning Center served the homeless:
- 104,185 meals,
- 18,841 shelter nights,
- 24,446 drop-in center visits;
- and helped 46 residents secure permanent housing.
ON THE AIR:
Our Faith in Action, a 90-minute film about about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, airs at 3:30 p.m. EST Sunday on EWTN.
Editor’s Note: This article was provided to Catholic Digest through a partnership with the National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Inc. It was written by the organization’s Michelle Boyer, Gary Stevens, and Chris Sariego.