Imagine if Saint Vincent de Paul was with us today. What would he do in a world still torn by wars, where billions of people are looking for a home?

In the face of contemporary challenges, Saint Vincent de Paul might find solace in the unity of the Vincentian Family tirelessly at the service of poorest in many parts of the world. A Family that gave birth to a global Vincentian initiative in 2017, the Famvin Homeless Alliance, responding to the call of Jesus: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matt. 25:35).

The first conference in Rome in 2018 saw the participation of Vincentians coming together to share their knowledge about street homelessness. Inspired by the service of Saint Vincent de Paul and St Louise de Marillac, during times of war and famine and following the Vincentian question, we asked ourselves: “What must be done?”. Thus, the 13 Houses Campaign was born, aimed at supporting all forms of homelessness worldwide.

Five years have passed since the first project ‘Jerico Way’ in the United States, whose first resident, Vincent, said,

“The 13 Houses Project came at the right time. When they handed me the keys, I realized this was no dream. People were saying, we are here for you.”

To date, the Campaign counts 103 projects in 65 countries for a total of 2446 houses provided.
Certainly, the numbers speak about its development, but which steps gave shape to the Campaign? What stories and voices have built and woven its fabric?

Like a puzzle coming together with many pieces, today we are proud to say that thanks to the combined efforts of the Vincentian Family the 13 Houses Campaign has managed to help 10,000 people experiencing homelessness across continents. The journey to get here has undoubtedly been full of challenges but also of hope and joy in the shared service.

During the Covid pandemic in 2019, the Vincentian Family demonstrated its spirit of initiative, rethinking its services and extending aid (including food, financial support, and protective gear) to homeless individuals and frontline workers. This unity and collaboration also responded promptly to a range of other emergencies, such as the explosion in Lebanon (2020), the typhoon Odette in Philippines (2021), the war in Tigray (2020) and the invasion of Ukraine (2022).

The Vincentian Family showcased its adaptability and understanding of various aspects of homelessness. In Seville in 2022, we particularly focused on the theme of people who are refugees, internally displaced and victims of human trafficking, recognizing that the journey does not conclude upon reaching a host country but requires ongoing support and companionship.

Then, in November 2022, on the 6th World Day of the Poor with Pope Francis’s appeal, the Vincentian Family responded to his call, reaching people in need in more countries. The blessing of the ‘Sheltering’ statue picturing a dove laying a blanket over a homeless person, on that same occasion is a gratifying encouragement for the impact of the 13 Houses Campaign to continue.

Today, 10,000 people helped is a number representing stories of success and voices that merge into a heart beating in unison. The Vincentian question of “What needs to be done?” persists and urges us to reflect and do more in a world where the right to a home is not yet universal. New challenges – including recent wars and climate change – may discourage us given their magnitude, but they also remind us of the need to respond with urgency and give us the strength to continue serving the poorest. Pope Francis, during the seventh day of the Poor, warns us not to forget the real world and not to turn our face away from anyone in need.

We are determined to continue our mission of transforming the lives of more homeless people. We are aiming to reach them in all countries where there is Vincentian presence. With the collaboration of the Vincentian Family members who are active there, we know we can achieve it.

Anna Mosca
Program Officer at Famvin Homeless Alliance