She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
In a city with an abundance of heart-breaking images, one that stands out is the people standing outside the gate at Joseph’s House, the homeless shelter that DSW works very closely with. The shelter has room for eighty guests. But each night more than that number come there hoping to find a place there. Guests are insured a space if they have gone through a simple interview process during the work day designed to help the staff make a connection—-so no one remains anonymous—-and so that we can attempt to offer help beyond simply the quick fix of a place for the night indoors.
Most evenings there are a few empty beds because some people might have found other housing during the day, or something happened, good or bad, that keeps some guests from making the way back to the shelter by 11:00PM.
A group from Bishop Ireton High School encountered this sad sight driving out of the parking lot a recent Thursday night. Eight or ten people who were not going to get in stood there clearly desperate and angry. One of the students wondered out loud how her school might raise money to build a second Joseph’s House so that no one would be let out in the cold—-a lovely and earnest aspiration.
Ending homelessness in Camden is the mission of Joseph’s House. We may need more shelters for that to goal to be realized. And we might wish generous teens could raise the amount of money needed to run a shelter. And it is very healthy and very Christian that the sight of people with no home deeply unsettles us. One important reason DSW invites people to come here is so we can be uncomfortable, and can be moved to compassion and action.
Holy Mary and St. Joseph had no home at the first Christmas. That fact points us to the meaning of this holy day. Whatever else we get or give for Christmas, let’s be sure to be unsettled and to act.