California Homeless – Serving the Underserved

“Be attentive to the needs of the poor, the suffering, the lonely, for whoever has chosen to love Jesus cannot but love his neighbor.”

                                                                                                                        -Pope Francis, December 18, 2014

Homelessness is a growing concern across the state of California. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in 2016, there were over 118,142 homeless people living in the state. Although the majority of California’s homeless are found in metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, smaller cities and rural communities are not immune to the issue.

Resurrection Catholic Community in Aptos has extensive outreach ministries to serve many in the community, including the homeless. Kathy Manus, a parishioner and outreach volunteer, has been serving the homeless in the Santa Cruz area since 2006. Manus volunteers her time at St. Francis Catholic Kitchen, as well as Jesus Mary Joseph Home (JMJ), both located in Santa Cruz. “It is a pleasure to serve those in need,” Manus said.

For more than 25 years, St. Francis Catholic Kitchen has been providing a warm meal to the homeless each weekday. Volunteers such as Manus help serve meals to more than 180 daily guests and parishioners from local churches donate clothing to be distributed three days per week. One objective of St. Francis Catholic Kitchen, according to its mission statement, is “To express the teachings and love of St. Francis and the Catholic Church by providing food, clothing and shelter, with dignity, to poor and needy people.”

Many factors contribute to homelessness, but California’s lack of affordable housing is one of the largest. According to Catholic Charities of California, 6.3 million Californians live in poverty. In addition, the state’s unemployment rate is also higher than the national average. Due to the increasing cost of housing in the state, many of those who live in poverty are on the verge of homelessness, so affordable housing and shelter programs are of utmost importance.

One such program is Jesus Mary Joseph Home, a five-bedroom shelter for homeless women and children. Located in a residential neighborhood, JMJ is the sister facility of St. Francis Catholic Kitchen. Mothers and their children are allowed to stay at JMJ for up to six months. Manus explained that JMJ is an intensive program designed to help mothers find work and permanent housing through a Catholic Christian tradition. “There is lots of repair work happening there. It’s healing of mind, body and spirit,” Manus said of JMJ.

Manus can also be found helping Manna Ministries, another outreach ministry of Resurrection parish. Started about five years ago by Shorelife Community Church, Manna Ministries serves a warm meal to the homeless each Saturday from the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel cemetery parking lot at Resurrection Catholic Community. Parishioners of Resurrection, led by Manus, volunteer their time setting up, serving meals and cleaning up each week. Parishioners also donate clothing and other personal items to be distributed. Manus said working with other faith-based organizations such as Shorelife is vital to helping the homeless. “There is more need for cooperation here,” she said.

Through her outreach work over the past eleven years, Manus has seen many causes of homelessness. She said there are many more people with intensive needs now, citing an increase in people with physical disabilities, such as amputees, living on the streets. Cases of mental illness and drug usage, especially amphetamines, are also on the rise.  “There has been an uptick in using drugs and alcohol for coping mechanisms,” Manus said. She added, “There’s not enough to go around in the treatment area.”

When asked why she continues to devote her life to helping the homeless, Manus said, “Whatever I can do, it is an opportunity to serve. It’s part of the gospel to reach out to people.”

Read how other parishes in the state have served to our homeless brothers and sisters.

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