Shelly Roder and Father Louis Vitale are the co-founders of The Gubbio Project – a campaign that is all about compassion. Since 2004, the organization has been partnering with local churches to provide refuge for homeless people.
The Gubbio Project was named after an Italian town where, according to legend, St. Francis arranged a peace agreement between a hungry wolf and frightened townsfolk. The saint recognized that by communicating, the two parties will find common ground. This legend acts as a metaphor to the project’s goals of uniting the homeless with those who aren’t, and making them feel that they are still part of the community.
“Lack of sleep is one of the most critical health issues for the homeless,” according to the project’s website.
Although there are shelters meant for the homeless, most of them close during the day and prohibit people from staying, unless they have a medical condition that requires it. For others, they don’t consider shelters as a safe place to stay. Many homeless people tend to keep awake at night in fear of being robbed or attacked.
A local man said:
“Most of the people you see here are walking all night, trying to stay out of sight of the police or other people who will harass him.”
In an act of compassion towards our homeless brothers and sisters, The Gubbio Project has teamed up with St. Boniface church in San Francisco, California and St. John the Evangelist in Mission to take part in this wonderful initiative.
“An average of 225 unhoused neighbors seek safety and rest on the pews in the sanctuary of St. Boniface church each weekday starting at 6 AM, and for an additional 100 guests at St. John’s the Evangelist in the Mission. No questions are asked when our guests walk into the churches; in an effort to remove all barriers to entry, there are no sign-in sheets or intake forms. No one is ever turned away; all are welcomed, respected and treated with dignity,” the website reads.
St. Boniface Church is split into three sections for the program. The front section is used for the daily mass at 12:15 PM, while the back 2/3 of the church is for the homeless residents. This layout isn’t just a simple plan – it is an arrangement that has a much deeper purpose.
“This sends a powerful message to our unhoused neighbors – they are in essence part of the community, not to be kicked out when those with homes come in to worship. It also sends a message to those attending mass – the community includes the tired, the poor, those with mental health issues and those who are wet, cold and dirty,” the website reads.
According to recent reports, other churches were inspired by this act of compassion, and they have been initiating projects like this of their own.
The Beth Emmanuel Church in London, Ontario, Canada, recently opened its doors to the homeless during the harsh winter months. A room in the church was transformed into a “warming center” where they could sleep and rest.
In New Jersey, a program called Family Promise partnered with the state’s local churches to temporarily provide shelter to homeless families. The Bellingham Herald reports that up to five families are helped at a time and that they are being rotated among the participating churches each week.
In Canada, Angela Peebles started a two-year, pilot project funded by the regional government. The St. Andrew’s church in Niagara Falls currently participates in the program, which aims to “establish a new drop-in space where they [homeless citizens] can hang out, get warm or cool down in the summer, and access services they may need,” wrote the St. Catharines Standard.
Check out the video below to learn more about The Gubbio Project.