By Catholic News Service     9/24/2015

NEW YORK (CNS) — To honor the imminent arrival of Pope Francis in New York, the city’s mayor and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan announced Sept. 23 that the Archdiocese of New York would provide housing and social services for up to 150 homeless individuals this winter, using vacant or underutilized buildings owned by the archdiocese.

Cardinal Dolan said the action — part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Opening Doors” clergy initiative for the homeless — “continues the church’s long-standing commitment on behalf of New Yorkers through Catholic Charities and our parishes and schools to provide help and create hope in the lives of New Yorkers in need.”

A news release from the mayor’s office said the announcement “resulted from work between the city and archdiocese to leverage buildings in the archdiocese’s portfolio that could potentially provide affordable housing and emergency shelters with services to homeless people in the city.”

De Blasio said Pope Francis’ visit to the city, set to begin late Sept. 24, “is a time to reflect on our common humanity and obligations to one another.”

“Too often, the city’s homeless are stigmatized, ostracized, dehumanized, and we must remember that they are our fellow human beings in crisis,” he added. “We must do all that we can to uplift those struggling and help them get back on their feet.”

In all, de Blasio hopes to convince New York faith leaders to offer unused space within their properties to provide at least 500 beds for shelter and social services to the homeless. More than 300 beds have already been pledged by several religious organizations, and the archdiocese’s 150 beds represent the single largest commitment.

The de Blasio administration estimates that there are 57,000 New Yorkers in shelters, with more than 40,000 of them members of families with children. The mayor’s plan to combat homelessness also includes efforts to move people off the streets and into safe places, to provide rental or legal assistance to families and individuals on the brink of homelessness and to offer rental assistance and exit pathways to permanent housing for those already in shelters.