April 10, 2020

Call for help is sounded for shelter to assist homeless families during crisis

Want to donate to Holy Family Shelter? Here’s how
To make an online financial donation to Holy Family Shelter, visit the website, www.holyfamilyshelter.net.
Checks can also be made payable to Holy Family Shelter and mailed directly to the shelter at:

907 N. Holmes Ave.
Indianapolis, IN

The shelter only needs financial donations at this time.

By John Shaughnessy

On a normal Easter weekend, the staff at Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis would be doing everything it could to make it a time of joy for the children and parents of the 22 families who live there—dyeing eggs and making cookies together, holding egg hunts and providing Easter baskets.

Yet in a time when there is no normalcy because of the coronavirus crisis, the Holy Family Shelter staff has focused all its efforts on one priority for the families who are homeless: “Absolute safety is our Easter this year,” said Bill Bickel, director of emergency and specialized services for Catholic Charities Indianapolis.

To ensure that safety, the shelter has had to resort to extraordinary measures, including distancing the families as much as possible, and helping the families relocate quickly to apartments, rental houses and extended-stay hotels.

“It’s impossible to do proper social distancing” when 22 families share the same facility and the same dining room, Bickel said, explaining the need to find immediate alternative housing for the residents.

The need to find alternative housing has also led to an extraordinary need for financial contributions to help the shelter serve the homeless during this time.

“Our most essential need is financial support,” Bickel said. “On our website, we normally place our ‘top 10 need items.’ There’s only one there now. We need to pay for the hotels, for food for them, and the support for them while they’re in there. Each of the hotel rooms has a kitchenette.”

While most of the residents have been placed in alternative housing, some were able to move in with family and friends during this desperate time. Wherever they have ended up, they share the same emotions as everyone in the world during this crisis—and there is an added concern for people who are poor, Bickel said.

“They’re scared. Keep in mind that they’re also working as we speak. They work in grocery stores cleaning and stocking shelves, in the hospitals as certified nursing assistants, and two of the families work at gas stations—all jobs classified as ‘essential,’ which means they cannot work remotely.

“Right now, we’re just trying to get through the health crisis to make sure the families are safe and supported. Once that settles down, I think the fallout and the ripple effect on them will be substantial. It will be really, really tough on the poor.”

During this extraordinary time, the staff at Holy Family Shelter has been tested in many ways—and has risen to the challenge, Bickel noted about the 12 full-time employees and the seven part-time workers.

“It really speaks to the tremendous passion and quality of the staff we have here—that they understand the poor, and they’re able to walk with them in the good times and in these extraordinary times.

“Still, there’s this incredible commitment and mindset that says, ‘We don’t abandon the poor.’ This is a hundred times more challenging than usual, and yet they show up every day with a passion to serve the least among us, often at great personal sacrifice.

“If anyone is looking for the next greatest generation, they don’t need to look any farther than the staff I get to work with.” †

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