When the Famvin Homeless Alliance considered how we could work together on a practical response to homelessness, we drew inspiration from the collaborative work of the Vincentian Family almost 400 years ago.
It started when Vincent was assigned the equivalent of one million dollars by Louis XIII as an endowment for his Congregation’s mission in 1643. Vincent chose to use the money to build 13 small houses close to Saint-Lazare, the motherhouse of the Congregation of the Mission, to care for abandoned children. The ongoing costs of these houses were supported by the Ladies of Charity while the Daughters of Charity cared for the children. By working together the Vincentian Family helped thousands of children who would have otherwise died on the streets.
But this Vincentian partnership did so much more for homeless people. It delivered aid to displaced people in the war zone of Alsace Lorraine and supported and housed refugees fleeing from the battle zone. It provided the Name of Jesus Hospice in 1652 to shelter, clothe, feed and train older people living on the streets or in the slums of Paris. It was responsible for the launch of Les Petites Ecoles (the little schools) that brought the gifts of literacy, numeracy and education to the poor – enabling them to escape the inter-generational poverty that so often ended in homelessness.
We were inspired by Vincent’s 13 houses. He saw a need and responded with concrete action. Today, we are confronted with the same problems that Vincent faced, but on a global scale. Of the 7 billion people on this planet almost 1.2 billion are homeless – they have been displaced, live in slums or on the streets of our cities. Many of them are turned away in their greatest time of need – a stark reminder of those words that dampen the joy of Luke’s infancy narrative: “There was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)
The 13 Houses Campaign has been created in response to this reality; learning and borrowing from the work of St Vincent himself.
You can read more about St. Vincent’s work with the poor here.
If you would like to find out more about how to get involved in the 13 Houses Campaign, please click here.