NEW YORK — Walking along Manhattan streets, one cannot help but notice homeless persons or those down on their luck. Anyone can become homeless in the wake of financial or psychosocial stressors, including loss of employment, underemployment, catastrophic medical expenses, divorce, substance abuse, psychiatric problems and so on, according to Marie Harrington, director of outreach programs at St. Francis of Assisi Church here.
As a result of the Great Depression in 1930, St. Francis established the St. Francis Breadline, under the direction of Gabriel Mehler, OFM, to help hungry and homeless people. It became evident that even when the country’s economic fortunes improved, some people’s lives took a turn for the worst. Today, under the leadership of Michael Carnevale, OFM, the breadline continues to feed up to 400 homeless persons daily in front of the church.
For about $5 a day, guests are provided with a large roast beef, ham, turkey or chicken breast sandwich; apple juice; fruit; cookies; and a cup of hot coffee. To help bag and distribute the meals, St. Francis provides a small stipend to men from the breadline. The men are such a vital part of the ministry, that they were invited to last year’s church Christmas party.
In addition, lay volunteers help distribute food daily before reporting to work. As a Lenten project, Harrington reports that members of the RENEW Younger Retiree Program, a St. Francis ministry, contributed $3,800 to help continue this essential work.