Affordable Housing in NYC “Pictured” by HNP, Other Franciscans

Russell Testa Features

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The New York City ministries of Holy Name Province have agreed to work actively with other Franciscans as well as a New York grassroots organization to seek affordable housing for the homeless.

An important step was taken last month to increase the supply of affordable housing in New York City.  Fourteen friars and partners in ministry from the New York City parishes of Holy Name Province met with members of Picture the Homeless, a grassroots organization of homeless persons and their allies working to address the crisis of affordable housing in New York City.

The purpose of the Oct. 19 meeting at Holy Name of Jesus Church on 96th Street was to determine how we, as Franciscan ministries, can work to bring affordable housing to New York.

Joining the meeting of our parishes was an Episcopal priest from the TSSF, the Third Order Society of St. Francis. Following the proceedings of the ministry were other members of the Franciscan family in New York who could not attend but who want to be involved with the initiative.

The Capuchin Franciscans, Conventual Franciscans and OFMs of the Immaculate Conception Province expressed interest in participating in this coalition.  With this wide-scale Franciscan involvement, this will be an inter-Franciscan and ecumenical Franciscan effort to share our Franciscan spirit with the world.

This meeting came at the urging of the JPIC Directorate and Provincial Council who had been contacted by Picture the Homeless who recognize the Franciscan presence in New York City as well as the New York heritage of the HNP.   Holy Name of Jesus Parish has been involved with Picture the Homeless in the past, due to the efforts ofMike Tyson, who was the host for the evening which consisted of prayer and dinner.

During the evening, members of Picture the Homeless shared their perspectives on the situation of homelessness and the housing crisis in New York City, where there is an inadequate supply of affordable housing.  Much of this is the result of buildings not being put on the market for housing. Though these “board-ups” are in every neighborhood, more are concentrated in lower-income areas. If they were brought to the market , the available supply of affordable housing would be greatly increased.

Picture the Homeless has an exciting platform for New York City government that seeks “a carrot and stick” approach to address this crisis in housing.  They have also been in the process of counting and “registering” the board-up housing in the city.  Through this and other people’s organizing, Picture the Homeless has the potential to offer the leadership and direction to bring the human right of housing to our brothers and sisters in New York City.  Holy Name Province has already signed on to the platform, and now the moral vision and people power present in our ministries is being added to this struggle for justice.

“Longest Night” Planned
The next step for this coalition is to join with the interfaith community on Dec. 21 for prayer on the “Longest Night,” at Judson Memorial Church at 55 Washington Square South in  Manhattan.  The Longest Night is marked across the U.S. as a way to remember our brothers and sisters who are without homes and those who have died, many without names and tears shed for their passing.

Each of the province’s ministries has pledged to bring a delegation to this solemn occasion as a way to add our voice of solidarity to the furthering of the cause of affordable housing in New York City.  An announcement of steps to be taken in the process of passing the platform in New York will be made at the “Longest Night,” which seeks to celebrate the human dignity of the “lesser ones” of our society.

As a way of acting in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in NYC, each of the ministries of the HNP outside of New York City will be sent prayer resources to enable them to hold their own “Longest Night” prayer service locally or with groups of other Franciscans.

For information about the Longest Night or the Picture the Homeless program, contact Russ Testa

Russell Testa is director of HNP’s Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation and the Animator for JPIC for the propvince.