On 14th October 2017 I stood on the steps of St Peters in Rome in front of over 10,000 members of the Vincentian Family from across the globe, to announce the establishment of the Famvin Homeless Alliance as a joint initiative of the global Vincentian Family. It had some very ambitious objectives and probably the most ambitious of all was the “13 Houses Campaign”. A plan to bring together all parts of the Vincentian family in order to house 10,000 homeless people over a six-year period starting in 2018. Five year later we are delighted to report that the “13 Houses Campaign” now encompasses 103 different projects in 65 countries helping more than our target of 10,000 people find housing – with still one year more to run. We have many new countries in the pipeline, and I hope we can increase our reach to assist many more vulnerable people leading up to the Year of Jubilee in 2025.
I am particularly proud of the good work achieved by the Vincentian Family in areas where raising money or bringing people together has proven very difficult. For example, the Daughters of Charity in Burkina Faso and their work with displaced populations. Or in Guatemala, where Vincentians, in collaboration, have housed 35 families who lost their houses after the volcanic eruption there.
We could also point to Romania where the St. Vincent de Paul Society has been taking care of families whose children were constantly sick due to inadequate housing. Or the St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia which has provided over 500 units of housing to the Campaign – an amazing achievement. I am also grateful to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth who have built houses under very difficult circumstances in places such as Nepal, Belize, and Botswana.
All these incredible projects show that the Vincentian charism of “action rather than words” is alive and growing across the world – as it has been for the last 400 years. It has been a real honour to be part of this incredible initiative and I think there is a lot more to come which is just as well given the size and scale of the problem.
The label of being “homeless” is particularly poignant given the story of nativity. It does not only apply to those we see sleeping on our streets but also encompasses hundreds of millions of refugees, internally displaced people and those living in slums and favelas across the world. Added together these different forms of homelessness point to the fact that one in eight people on this planet, about 1.4 billion people, suffer from a lack of safe and secure home.
At the root of homelessness is poverty in all its guises. For most it is material – literally having no money, no resources at all. But there are other poverties relating to health, mental health, addiction, relational issues, and family breakdown. We need to provide housing for sure, but also the support, care and love which can help people overcome the other issues to affect them.
Thank you to all of you who have supported our work and thank you especially to the dedicated team working for the Famvin Homeless Alliance who have made the impossible possible. Have a happy and blessed Christmas and may we renew our efforts in coming year.
Mark McGreevy OBE
Depaul Group CEO