Other Voices

FW Diocese refocuses on the homeless

Bishop Michael F. Olson heads the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth.
Bishop Michael F. Olson heads the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth. Star-Telegram

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” This is the admonition that Christ gives us in Matthew 25:45.

This caution was at the forefront of discussions during the last year between the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth in discerning how best to serve the homeless and marginalized of Fort Worth.

The Friars’ desire for a proposed new friary that would cost substantial amounts of money clashed with the needs of the diocese to use prudently its limited financial resources in outreach to the poor.

Through prayer and ongoing discussion with the leadership of the Friars, the judgment was made that the corporal work of mercy in service to the homeless and marginalized of Fort Worth would best continue through Catholic Charities of Fort Worth and our local parishes.

The Friars operated St. Benedict’s Mission in a rented space for 12 hours a week, spread over three days.

They devoted the remaining time to prayer and to their community life in a temporary friary inadequate for the expressed needs of their religious vocation, for which we are grateful.

Catholic Charities not only ministers to homeless daily but also where the homeless are: under bridges, in homeless camps and in shelters.

Historically, the Catholic Diocese serves the least among us through the 105-year-old Catholic Charities of Fort Worth and the outstanding work of many of our parishes. That will continue.

Throughout, Catholic Charities has ministered to the needy, to the immigrant, to the refugee, to the distraught and the homeless including veterans and their families, even before the Franciscan Friars of Renewal came to serve.

Catholic Charities’ services expand continually. In 2014, it introduced the “Night Outreach Program” and longer hours in other services.

It is one of the partnering organizations supporting “True Worth” as it launches in 2016, a new central resource for the homeless.

Through discernment, we concluded that Catholic Charities’ services to the homeless and marginalized go far beyond what we offered at the St. Benedict Mission:

▪ Expanded hours of service through Street Outreach Services (SOS) to those living on the fringes, particularly in homeless camps, under bridges and throughout the city, including basic needs, spiritual care and assistance in finding housing.

▪ Permanent supportive housing through “Master Lease” for families and individuals who have experienced chronic homelessness.

▪ Outreach, mentoring and housing assistance through SOS volunteers.

▪ Housing stability through the Veterans Services program for veterans and their families who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness, complimented by the “Money School” program that includes intensive case management, temporary financial assistance and financial education.

•A new Night Outreach Program, with a team of Catholic Charities outreach workers engaging individuals at night who are unable to connect to homeless services during the day or who need additional services.

Our work is not done.

In its annual report, the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition said that its survey identified 1,944 homeless persons in January 2015.

It is with God’s grace and his guiding hand that we will redouble our work of helping those who are homeless.

Bishop Michael F. Olson was installed as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth on Jan. 29, 2014. The diocese includes 90 parishes and serves 710,000 Catholic residents of the Fort Worth area.