Former rectory to serve as temporary homeless shelter - Catholic Courier
Deacon Dan Callan (right) speaks to Ed Atallah (left) and Kristin Kildea as he leads a tour of the new shelter Nov. 19. Deacon Dan Callan (right) speaks to Ed Atallah (left) and Kristin Kildea as he leads a tour of the new shelter Nov. 19.

Former rectory to serve as temporary homeless shelter

ROCHESTER — A homeless advocacy group and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish announced plans for a temporary homeless shelter during a press conference Nov. 19.

The parish, along with members of REACH (Rochester Emergency Action Committee for the Homeless) and staff from the Diocese of Rochester, diocesan Catholic Charities and Catholic Family Center, have been working with Rochester and Monroe County officials for more than a month on the temporary shelter’s proposal.

The shelter will house about 30 hard-to-place homeless residents at the Corpus Christi Church rectory, located at 80 Prince St., Deacon Dan Callan said during a Nov. 11 meeting with the Prince, Alexander, Champeney and Kenilworth neighborhood group, also known as PACK. Corpus Christi, which is now known as Our Lady of the Americas, is part of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish.

Temporary shelter announced

Nick Colter from REACH explained Nov. 11 that the temporary shelter will be staffed by social workers, licensed mental-health counselors, and an army of volunteers from area churches and organizations. The shelter will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Deacon Callan said, and will have 24-hour security.

REACH estimates that it will cost $150,000 to operate the shelter for six months. On Nov. 17, the Rochester City Council unanimously passed legislation to provide $50,000 toward the cost of the shelter’s operation.

"This new temporary shelter will provide a warm location for our hard to serve homeless population during the winter months and play a crucial role in our on-going efforts to bring safer and more vibrant neighborhoods to our city," Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement read by City Councilwoman Elaine Spaull during  the Nov. 19 press conference.

REACH is still waiting for Monroe County to contribute funding, but remains prayerful that it will be received, said the Rev. Peter W. Peters, a REACH member representing the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. He added that REACH plans to raise funds to cover the remainder of the shelter’s operating budget.

The temporary shelter is necessary, Deacon Callan said, because renovations on a building that will be used as a permanent shelter will not be completed until next year. That building, located on Ormond Street, was purchased by Rochester’s House of Mercy.

During the Nov. 11 meeting, neighbors of the rectory said they were relieved that the shelter would be temporary. It is set to open this month and the city will require it to close by April 15, Deacon Callan said. In case of extreme weather, the closing date can be extended less than a month, he added.

In terms of neighborhood safety, there were barely any incidents to report at Sanctuary Village on Canal Street, a temporary shelter that closed this past April, Rochester Police Department Capt. Corey Brown noted during the Nov. 11 meeting. Also during that meeting, Gary Vanson said he worries about shelter residents pan-handling in the neighborhood, since the East Main Street-Prince Street quarter is an entertainment district with the many shows that take place at the Auditorium Theater and Armory.

"We have to take care of these people somewhere," Brown remarked.

He added that it was "a wonderful thing" to hear two former Sanctuary Village residents speak during the neighborhood meeting and say that they did not need such shelter this winter.

Reginald Thomas said he was living under the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge before finding his way to Sanctuary Village. He is a recovery addict and he just found himself at times not being able to manage his life on his own, he said. He has been clean for nine years.

With the assistance of staff and volunteers at Sanctuary Village, he found a one-bedroom apartment and is continuing to work on improving his life, Thomas said.

"The volunteers showed me there is a better way," he said. "Through God’s grace and his mercy, I’m here to tell (my story)."

Thomas said he will now give back to the community that has given to him.

Al Freeman said Sanctuary Village was a blessing, as it was the only shelter in all of Western New York where homeless residents could find refuge from the cold all hours of the day. Other shelters only allow residents, mainly men, to come in at certain times, he added.

Freeman said he grew up in a middle-class neighborhood, received a good education and worked in a stable job. But losing his infant son to SIDS put him in a downward spiral, and he used drugs and alcohol to deal with the pain, he said. Many years later, he discovered Sanctuary Village, and the services he received there changed his life, he noted.

Freeman even served as the "head of security" during his time at the shelter. Now, he has an apartment on Lake Avenue and is ahead on his rent payments. He said if this new temporary shelter can help just 10 of the 30 people who will be housed there, the impact will be great for the community as a whole.

Sanctuary Village "helps you get back on your feet," Freeman said. "We meet people where they’re at." (Click below to hear Freeman talk about how the temporary shelter can help the homeless)

Contains reporting by Gina Capellazzi.

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