March 21, 2021

As we continue to make our way through Lent, the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us to re-focus our lives on the Lord and our relationship with him. This is true for us as individuals, and as a community of faith.

Almsgiving can include both personal giving to those in need and giving through the wider Church. Giving through the wider Church is often done through institutional organizations that spread the Gospel by reaching out to the people who are of particular concern to God. Those people, we know from the scriptures, and from the teaching of the Church, are the ones who are poor and vulnerable.

This month we received some very good news about how our institutional outreach, our almsgiving as a community of faith, has expanded in an exciting way. Catholic Community Services of Western Washington has been selected to operate a new shelter near the Vancouver Mall.

A review committee comprising staff from the county, city and Vancouver Housing Authority provided recommendations for an operator in late February after receiving bids, and CCS was recommended and selected.

The Vancouver Housing Authority has recently completed the purchase of the Howard Johnson Suites on Vancouver Mall Drive and will turn the 63-room hotel into a shelter for people experiencing homelessness. In a January 8, 2021 article in The Columbian, Jeff Klein described the shelter this way:

“As a noncongregate shelter, those staying there will have private rooms and restrooms, a critical feature during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also be a continuous-stay shelter, meaning residents will not be required to leave each morning to find a place to stay during the day.”

Catholic Community Services (CCS) will bring to this ministry their expertise in operating shelters all over Western Washington. For well over one hundred years CCS has been the Catholic Church’s outreach to the poorest and most vulnerable people in Western Washington.

Services are expected to begin by early June. Referrals to the shelter will occur through the county’s system called the Coordinated Entry System.

I am particularly grateful for the hard work of our regional representative for CCS, Nick Leider, who has been extraordinarily responsive to our desire to have CCS here in the southern part of the state to share their wonderful ministry. Nick will continue to be involved in this shelter project as it takes root here in Vancouver.

This news is indeed a wonderful example of institutional almsgiving that will have a real impact on people in our community who are experiencing homelessness. You can always offer to support CCS through their website at www.ccsww.org.

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni