Bethany House offers women and children shelter and hope - Catholic Courier

Bethany House offers women and children shelter and hope

At one time, Quinae Brooks and her daughter were guests at Bethany House, a temporary shelter in Rochester for women and children experiencing homelessness.

Today, Brooks works as the house manager there, assisting guests with intake, stays and dismissals; managing day-to-day functions; and coordinating services for guests.

“We had been homeless for five years total. It was such a great turning point in my life that I … didn’t lose sight of what Bethany (House) offered me, the things that they instilled in me, what they opened my mind and my heart up to,” Brooks said.

Now she gives back to the place that helped her get her life back, and she knows the struggle that many guests go through. She is always positive and encouraging, said Tiffany Taylor, board chair at Bethany House and executive director of the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse.

Anne Bell, interim house director and board secretary, said of Brooks, “She keeps the place running with a heart and conviction, and dignity for all those she serves.”

Catholic Worker house emphasizes dignity and respect

Quinae’s success story at Bethany House is one of many, according to Bell.

Bethany House was founded in 1977 as a Catholic Worker house of hospitality to radically accompany and lift up those in need “in an area that has been depleted of its beauty by violence and poverty,” according to the house’s statement of philosophy. Since then, hundreds of homeless women and children have passed through Bethany House seeking a life of greater safety and stability.

Women come from a variety of circumstances, including domestic violence, incarceration, eviction, addiction or hospitalization. According to the philosophy statement from Bethany House, “All come from experiences that radically deny their worth.”

To address this, Bethany House staff members strive to create a home-like atmosphere that lets guests know they they have dignity and deserve respect, Bell explained. From family-style meals, to school bus pick-up, to clean and comfortable bedrooms, guests experience hospitality, shelter and support — hallmarks of the Catholic Worker Movement, according to https://catholicworker.org.

In addition to housing up to 10 women and their children for 45 days, Bethany House, which is located at 1111 Joseph Ave. in the former convent of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, also runs a food pantry Tuesday through Thursday for anyone in need of food.

Funding comes solely from private donations and grants

To accomplish its mission, Bethany House relies exclusively on private donations and grants, such as Hunger Relief Grants distributed by Catholic Charities Family and Community Services in Rochester. Hunger Relief Grants are funded in part by proceeds from the annual Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal, which raises money for the various Catholic Charities offices and affiliated agencies throughout the Diocese of Rochester.

Bethany House uses Christmas Appeal funds for guests’ transportation to job interviews and medical appointments, security deposits for their apartments, and to supplement food pantry donations from Foodlink, Brooks said.

“A lot of our families are experiencing homelessness for the first time,” she noted.

In those cases, there are furniture and household items that need to be stored while the guests secure housing. Since Bethany House’s storage space is limited, storage rental also is needed, she said.

Brooks added that in addition to cash donations, Bethany House also accepts food, gift cards, paper products, cleaning supplies, baby food and formula, diapers and wipes, and gently worn clothing for women and children.

Bethany House is staffed by paid workers and volunteers who are former guests

Historically, Bethany House staff members were women religious or volunteers, Bell explained, but after reopening from COVID, it became a challenge to find volunteers. Staff members — many of them former guests — are now paid close to minimum wage. Their workload is shared with interns from Monroe Community College, University of Rochester and Nazareth University.

Many of the interns as well as former guests come back to volunteer, Bell said, and Bethany House partners with volunteers from Christian Heritage and St. Joseph’s Philip the Van Ministry. Brooks added that more volunteers are always welcome and needed.

The most important aspect of life at Bethany House, according to Bell, is “to see Christ in all those who enter,” be they guests, volunteers, staff or visitors. A reminder Bethany House’s mission hangs in its busy office: a plaque listing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which are at the heart of the Catholic Worker Movement.

Tags: Faith in Action
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