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This page has some information about how parish staffs can help families and individuals with food, clothing, travel, and shelter emergencies, even after the hours when Catholic Charities and other resource agencies are normally open.

SECTIONS ON THIS PAGE (and dates revised)

Father, I m glad I caught you. You re going out?. I just need a minute or two of your time. Can I please walk with you.

Father, I m desperate. Watch your step, Father. I got my wife and two small kids in the car over there. We re going to Tennessee for my mom s funeral. We left Fargo in North Dakota Wednesday morning. We had car trouble when we got to Dubuque. The radiator cracked and let the fluent out. Lucky the motor didn t burn up. But fixing it took all our money. We have been sleeping in the car. But the kids are so hungry. A friend in Fargo said I should stop at St. Clovis parish in Chicago, if I needed help. I don t know how he knew about you, but he said you would help us.

Is that you car, Father? Maybe, we could wash it, or something. Father, you got to help us. We need money for food and gas. Can't you give us thirty dollars? I'll repay you next week, for sure..6... I ll die if we miss mom's funeral.

Father, I need your help.

Welfare Reform is upon us!  People will be turning to churches in
increased numbers.  Every parish wants to be prepared.

Catholic Charities would like to assist you to meet this serious
situation.  This web page is a beginning effort to brainstorm our
mutual response: how to use our present information & resources to
respond realistically to people's needs.

People will knock on your door:

   (1) during the working day:

         If you can meet their immediate needs, great!

         Otherwise, at a 6minimum, you or the rectory staff need at
         least one person you can contact for information and/or
         assistance --

                    The Vincent de Paul Society
                    A parish social care program
                    Your Catholic Charities parish contact
                    A local human service organization

   (2) after hours, when rectory staff have gone home and most agencies
       are closed. 

          For this you need a plan.  Our information page contains some
          ideas on how you can prepare yourself & your rectory staff for
          these situations. 

Chicago Catholic Charities

Chicago Catholic Charities is a large social service agency that provides many services for families, children and individuals in need.

The main unit of Information and Referral is located in the 126 N. DesPlaines offices, which are open during the day, 8:30am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday. Individual departments may operate with longer hours or with special telephone connections.

If you do not have a parish social concerns committee, then we strongly encourage you -- before a problem arises- to have a contact person at Catholic Charities. Call Mary Grace at 655-XXXX.

People with lesser needs you may be able to help directly. But people with larger needs probably require resources available through agencies of local government. These resources differ from community to community. It is helpful to be acquainted with the officials and staff of your local governmental agencies that manage those resources.

The way to provide compassionate, effctive assistance to anyone is to take time to listen to the story which brought them to you for help. Ask questions. What brought them to their present state? How do they plan to get by after the help you may give is depleted? Why did they come now for help?

Be interested, get a good picture of the situation and know if what you may offer can make a difference, or may possibly support a dangerous lifestyle. Being the steward of parish funds and donations asks for care in their distribution. It is hard to listen to the answers if you are rushed or if you do not know what help is available for the person.


Develop parish guidelines so that all in the parish who give help offer the same service to anyone who comes for assistance. (This promotes consistency in giving, and understanding between all involved - including parishioners in general.)

Research a list of area agencies and hotline numbers (i.e., local police, senior centers, Area Agency on Aging, County Health Department, Department of Human Services, or township) with phone numbers, contact person and the services provided.

To prepare the list:

Have a volunteer committee research the area emergency shelter systems, food distribution centers, clothing and furniture distribution sites and medical outreach. Ask them to visit sites if possible to meet a person to whom referrals should go, the hours of service, who they can serve and how they could interact with your emergency assistance program. Learn from them about other programs.

Ask for a list from the township, local police station, local hospital, or area newspaper.


Have one person (staff or volunteer) responsible for the emergency assistance program. If the designated person is not on site, ask the person to return at a time when he/she is.

In the meantime, follow church guidelines: perhaps offer a fast-food certificate or a $5 voucher for gasoline. Again, a parish plan must be tailored to the real world in w2hich your parish operates. Jewel Food certificates might be workable in one parish. Giving them out in another parish might result in 20 strangers at your door in the morning asking for similar certificates. Explain that you never give cash.


Your community has some way of providing emergency housing. Contact your police for emergency shelter. Have a parish plan which has been prepared with knowledge of existing local resources and personal contacts in these resources which the local parish committee has developed.


On an emergency basis, the police are in the best situation to set the communities emergency resources into motion. Contact them.


The evening or the weekend is not a good time for working on this problem. (Additional text will be developed for this section.)


If people regularly come for emergency assistance, find out with whom the parish can collaborate to give more effective help.

Do they need a worker from a local agency? Do they need budgeting counseling? Is there addiction in the family? Help by finding and healing the root of the problem, as Christ did.

Be sensitive to security for people meeting those in need.

Dont have the parish duplicate a service which is offered through another accessible program. Obviously, programs within the parish should not be in competition, and should have different strategies for helping the poor.

Use programs supported by parishioners' tax dollars and encourage parishioners to volunteer to drive people to those programs, e.g., county health programs.

Have a system for knowing whom the parish is helping. Be sensitive to the need for confidentiality.

(To comment on the development of this web page leave a note now for Father Roger J. Coughlin.)

Select here to go to the Catholic Charities of Chicago Information and Referral page.

Last modified: Oct. 21, 1996