Chicagoland

Shower and laundry facilities open at Catholic Charities

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
June 20, 2018

Shower and laundry facilities open at Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago is taking a cue from Pope Francis. The agency dedicated new shower and laundry facilities for its clients June 18, 2018, as part of a prayer service rededicating its headquarters at the St. Vincent Center, 721 N. LaSalle St., as part of the wrap-up of Catholic Charities’ 100th anniversary year. The center also dedicated a new kitchen.
"Jesus the Homeless," a life-size bronze sculpture, sits in front of the Catholic Charities headquarters at 721 N. LaSalle St. It depicts Christ as a homeless man asleep on a park bench. The sculpture is the work of Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, who has created versions for other cities. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
The new kitchen facilities at Catholic Charities' St. Vincent Center, 721 N. LaSalle St. (Julie Jaidenger/Chicago Catholic)
The new kitchen facilities at Catholic Charities' St. Vincent Center, 721 N. LaSalle St. They were blessed and dedicated June 18, 2018. (Julie Jaidenger/Chicago Catholic)
Monsignor Michael Boland, president of Catholic Charities leads a prayer service rededicating the St. Vincent Center, 721 N. LaSalle St., June 18, 2018. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Ron Hicks, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Chicago, gives some opening remarks prior to the rededication of Catholic Charities' St. Vincent Center, 721 N. LaSalle St., June 18, 2018. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The choir sings at the prayer service rededicating Catholic Charities' St. Vincent Center, 721 N. LaSalle St., June 18, 2018. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Monsignor Michael Boland, president of Catholic Charities rededicates the St Vincent Center, 721 N. LaSalle St., where two new showers were installed for the organizations clients. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Chicago Police Chaplain Father Dan Brandt joins members of the police department and family members of Cmdr. Paul Bauer in dedicating a flagpole in his honor in front of Catholic Charities' St. Vincent Center, 721 N. LaSalle St. The ceremony was part of a rededication of the building. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Four washers and dryers were installed at Catholic Charities' St. Vincent Center, 721 N. LaSalle St. The laundry anew new shower facilities, for the use of Catholic Charities' homeless clients. were dedicated June 18, 2018. (Julie Jaidenger/Chicago Catholic)
Catholic Charities supplies towels and toiletries for guests who use the new shower faciliities. (Julie Jaidenger/Chicago Catholic)
One of two new shower areas for clients of Catholic Charities. Following the example of Pope Francis who has opened a shower room and laundry facility for the homeless in Rome, Catholic Charities has built showers and and laundry facility at 721 N. LaSalle St. The new facilities were dedicated June 18, 2018. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago is taking a cue from Pope Francis.

The agency dedicated new shower and laundry facilities for its clients June 18 as part of a prayer service rededicating its headquarters at the St. Vincent Center, 721 N. LaSalle St., as part of the wrap-up of Catholic Charities’ 100th anniversary year. The center also dedicated a new kitchen.
Pope Francis opened shower facilities in St. Peter’s Square in 2015 and a launderette for homeless people in Rome in 2017.

“As we close our 100th anniversary year, we are celebrating an expanded and deepened commitment to the city’s poor, the often homeless residents who come to this site in the shadow of skyscrapers and are welcomed as brothers and sisters,” said Monsignor Michael Boland, Catholic Charities’ president and CEO. “We are inspired and energized by Pope Francis, who just a few days ago, issued a message for the World Day of the Poor titled ‘The Poor Man Cried, and the Lord Heard Him.’ The Holy Father recognized that care of the poor must extend beyond sustenance to services that recognize and support the dignity of each human being.”

Most people take for granted the ability to take a shower and get clean whenever they want to, Boland said, or to wash their clothes and bedding.

t’s not so easy for people who are homeless.

“The people who have used it are profoundly grateful,” Boland said.

So far, the showers are open for only a couple of hours each Wednesday, when volunteers are available to welcome guests and escort them to the clothing room, where they can choose clean clothes to wear after their showers.

Guests can sign up for a time slot the day before, at the Tuesday evening supper.

After they arrive and choose new clothes, guests receive the toiletries they need to shower, brush their teeth and shave, along with new underwear and socks, and get a half-hour in one of the two shower rooms.

Boland said that the showers could be open more often if there were more volunteers to welcome people.

The first couple of weeks went off without any problems, despite the concerns that were raised about liability and other issues ahead of time.

“It went perfectly,” Boland said. “Sometimes you do have to approach it like a little child and have faith.”

Offering services that help preserve the health of poor people and respect their dignity fits the core mission of Catholic Charities over its century-long history.

“Our services may have changed over the years, as we responded to epidemics, wars, economic crises, domestic and street violence and the consequences of family instability, but the mission has remained the same,” Boland said. “We now serve more than 1 million people every year in Cook and Lake counties.”

Catholic Charities’ work would not be possible without the support of its neighbors, Boland said. Area hotels and restaurants donated toiletries, towels, food and supplies — including china plates, so guests do not have to eat off of disposable dishes.

“For many of them, it’s been years since they didn’t have to eat out of a paper bag or off of a paper plate,” Boland said.

Designer Mick DiGiulio planned the new kitchen and recruited local tradesmen to make it a reality.

“It’s a huge difference,” Boland said. “The old one was truly ancient.”

Volunteers from Holy Name Cathedral usually serve evening meals twice a week; groups from Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue and Chicago Sinai Congregation are also regular volunteers.

Boland also reminded the guests at the dedication — everyone from volunteers to board members and donors — that Catholic Charities’ mission is to serve everyone in need.

“We serve all who come here,” he said. “We do not proselytize or preach. We do not do this because they are Catholic, or we hope they will become Catholic. We do it because we are Catholic, and we are witnessing to our faith.”

Catholic Charities also blessed and dedicated its remodeled St. Vincent Centennial Garden in front of the building, and dedicated the flagpole to Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer, who was the commander in the district where the St. Vincent Center is when he was killed in March.

Topics:

  • catholic charities

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