Harrington Auxiliary, Hospital, Church Team Up to Help the Homeless
SOUTHBRIDGE, Mass. – March 10, 2016 – In any given week, Father Peter Joyce could see number of individuals show up at the doorstep of St. John Paul II Parish in Southbridge, looking for somewhere to stay. Thanks to an arrangement he has made with a local motel, he is able to provide temporary emergency housing for those who have no other option.
“Usually we provide one to three evenings, depending on the individual need,” Father Peter said.
The crisis has captured the attention of Harrington HealthCare System and the Harrington Auxiliary. Both have taken an interest in helping Father Peter and the homeless within the community.
The Auxiliary raises money throughout the year by holding community events, hospital lobby sales and other activities. They recently donated $5,000 to the parish to help pay for the cost of the temporary housing.
“We want to do as much as we can to help our community,” said Harrington Auxiliary President Helen Lenti. “This is such a devastating problem. No one should be left out on the street. Father Peter and his team are being so generous and we are simply doing our part to support the initiative.”
“The funds the Auxiliary provided will allow us to consider helping more family units–individuals, couples, or parents with children– for more than one night, or when there is an extreme case, with other accommodations,” Father Peter said.
Efforts to assist the homeless within Southbridge and surrounding communities have also begun to involve representatives from Harrington HealthCare System.
“There was a natural progression of conversation into how we as a regional healthcare system should help,” said David Morgan, vice president of Harrington HealthCare System.
Morgan explained Harrington’s Chart program, which began last fall, includes navigators and clinicians who help connect patients with appropriate and helpful services, including transportation, financial aid, outpatient counseling or interpreter services.
“The program touches patients all over our community, and we want to be sure the homeless are also active participants,” Morgan said. “We can reach out to the individuals Father Peter is helping, and offer them additional assistance and resources to care.”
Harrington already has in place an internal patient care fund, which offers financial assistance for patients who are overwhelmed and unable to make one-time expenses. The Harrington Auxiliary has donated $1,500 to this fund annually for several years. This year, they doubled their contribution to $3,000.
Currently, there is a community group being assembled to collaborate on additional programs, services and resources which can offer assistance to the homeless. The group consists of Harrington representatives, Auxiliary members, local church groups, and other community leaders who have come forward and expressed interest in being involved.
Father Peter says his hopes for finding solutions will include taking a look at the local housing situation.
“I would like to see a cooperation between agencies, civic government and churches that will help provide a safety net for people in need, without enabling them to be irresponsible in their own duty for housing,” he said. “But when people are caught in a tough situation, to have something organized that would catch them … Rather than have them living in cars, the woods, or bunking in with family or friends and compromising their rental agreement.”