Jesuit Ministries Join Forces to Help the Homeless in Los Angeles

By Ellie Hidalgo

Homelessness has many faces in the City of Angels. It's a harsh reality faced by many veterans, seniors, foster youths, the unemployed, working poor families, immigrants, formerly incarcerated, battered women and their children, and those with mental health struggles.

To raise awareness of the L.A. housing crisis and the opportunity to do something about it on Election Day, Jesuit institutions in Southern California are inviting all Angelenos to a special liturgy Saturday, Oct. 29, 3:30 p.m., at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood. Our Lady of the Angels Region Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark will preside and Jesuit Father Greg Boyle, SJ, founder of Homeboy Industries, will serve as the homilist. The theme of the liturgy is: "The Many Faces of Homelessness. Imagine a World Where Everyone has a Home."

"By joining together on this issue, Jesuit Works and Ministries of Southern California hopes to echo Pope Francis' invitation to the margins so that our joined efforts will secure the very erasure of those margins," said Father Boyle. The priest witnesses the struggles of gang members trying to redirect their lives as they return from prison homeless and are left to sleep in cars, on a bench, or a couch here and there. "What ails us as a society can't be remedied unless there is some sanctuary, a secure base, a place to lay one's head," said Father Boyle.

Jesuit Works & Ministries of Southern California is a new collaborative effort of the  California Province of the Society of Jesus, and includes Blessed Sacrament Parish and School, Christus Ministries, Dolores Mission Parish and School, Homeboy Industries, Ignatian Volunteer Corps, The Jesuit Novitiate of the Three Companions, Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, LA Voice, Loyola High School, Loyola Institute for Spirituality, Loyola Law School, Loyola Marymount University, Loyola Productions, Proyecto Pastoral, and Verbum Dei High School.

For years, students, staff, volunteers and benefactors at these Jesuit institutions have reached out to homeless men and women by cooking meals, providing shelter, counseling and other services, offering retreats and advocating for more resources. The upcoming liturgy in support of the homeless also will advocate for Proposition HHH on the November ballot as an opportunity for Angelenos to vote for the building of 10,000 units of supportive housing for homeless neighbors and for very low-income families.    

"Jesuit ministries have played a pivotal role, not only in raising local consciousness about the plight of the homeless in the Hollywood area, but also in doing something constructive to address this very significant issue," noted Bishop Clark, whose region includes Blessed Sacrament Church. "On the one hand, especially through LA Voice/PICO, efforts to create local affordable housing have made it possible for some homeless families to regain residence and have prevented other families from becoming homeless. On a different level, The Center at Blessed Sacrament Church provides services to address the psychological and sociological causes of homelessness among those who are often the most difficult to help and the most neglected by society, the inveterate homeless."

For more than a century, the California Province of the Society of Jesus has responded to the call of Christ to proclaim God's Word and to help people of all ages experience lives of faith, hope and love. To serve that mission, a diversity of ministries sprang up: universities, high schools, parishes, elementary schools, retreat centers and social ministries for the poor and marginalized. By joining together in the Year of Mercy to support the homeless, these diverse ministries hope to have a greater collective impact on an issue vital to those on the margins and to the future of the region.

Ellie Hidalgo is a pastoral associate at Dolores Mission 

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Loyola Institute for Spirituality
Loyola Institute for Spirituality (LIS), founded in 1997, is located in Orange, CA. LIS provides many programs and services for individuals, parishes, and dioceses throughout Southern California and beyond.