Dorothy Day House expanding on 10th anniversary - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Dorothy Day House expanding on 10th anniversary

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)

A family focused transitional homeless ministry said it has big growth plans.

The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality said it plans to purchase and renovate some of the buildings that will be vacated by Church Health Center as it transitions its health services to Crosstown Concourse.

“We hear unbelievable horror stories of family homelessness almost every day,” Sister Maureen Griner, founding Executive Director of the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality currently located at 1429 Poplar Ave, said.

The ministry said it has to turn away eight to ten families each week due to limited space at 1429 Poplar.

“We hear about families living in cars under overpasses, living at extended stay hotels or huddled with extended family or friends, “Sister Maureen said.

Landlocked at its current location, the ministry can serve only three homeless families at a time. Unswerving in its mission, the Memphis location has been a constant transitional home to 43 residential families in its decade of existence, while helping many others survive homelessness in countless ways beyond its doors. While exploring ways to serve more families and expand, the Dorothy Day House found a willing partner in the soon to be moving Church Health Center.

The big expansion dream was announced while the ministry celebrated its 10th anniversary on Saturday, May 7 with cake and balloons at a benefit event called “Café du Memphis.”

The Memphis Rotary Club recreated New Orleans’ famous Café du Monde at the East Parkway Pavilion in Overton Park and sold beignets, Starbucks coffee, Cajun dishes and more to support the family centered homeless ministry.

The Dorothy Day House will need to raise far more than the expected $16,000 collected at the Café du Memphis event.

Sister Maureen said the Dorothy Day House plans a capital campaign aimed at $3 million dollars to buy and renovate three Church Health Center properties: 1178 Peabody, 1161 Peabody and 321 Bellevue. In addition, Dorothy Day House intends to purchase a small apartment building from a private owner at 1205 Vance.

“The three apartment units will serve as a transition dwelling for families as they save enough money to go back out on their own, “Sister Maureen said. “Family homelessness is an invisible problem. We hope that the celebration of our tenth anniversary and the announcement of our expansion will draw more people to join us in helping homeless families in our community.”

The ministry depends entirely on monetary and in-kind donations from private donors and other charitable organizations. While Catholic in its origins, It is not officially associated with any denomination and doesn’t overtly preach religion to residents but does encourage attendance at a church of their choice.

On any given night, an estimated 160 families are homeless in Memphis, according to Sister Maureen. Keeping families in crisis united while they struggle with homelessness is the key that unlocked the ministry of Memphis’ Dorothy Day House.

Sister Maureen said it all started in 2003 when a man who knew Dorothy Day (1897-1980) came to Memphis to talk about the journalist who many now regard as a saint. Day was Founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, and provided practical service to the less fortunate. Hearts were moved her story.

The Memphis ministry quotes Day on its website, “the mystery of the poor is that they are Jesus, and what you do for them you do for him.”

Sister Maureen said a gathering of about 30 Memphians were so stirred by Dorothy Day’s legacy of service to the poor, they decided to act.

“It draws you to want to do something and service to the poor is the next step in spirituality,” Sister Maureen said.

They considered a soup kitchen or clothes closet as well as other ideas but settled on a larger, family focused ministry when they learned no such service exists elsewhere in the city. Now that service will expand through the generosity of many.

“Ninety-five percent of the people of Memphis want to do something to help the homeless but they’re a bit stumped on exactly how to give,” Sister Maureen said as she expressed gratitude for the Memphis Rotary event now in its second year which has helped raise dollars as well as the profile of the ministry. 

In addition to housing families, Dorothy Day House provides: 

  • Food, clothing, and shelter
  • Educational resources and guidance
  • Parenting skills
  • Employment counseling
  • Prospective job contacts
  • Transportation
  • Referrals for child care
  • Financial and budgeting advice
  • Counseling and case management services
  • Advocacy and mentoring
  • Access to sources of permanent housing

New personal relationships which provide a system of healthy support and encouragement for the future.

Copyright 2016 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

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