Image courtesy of Chicago Tribune

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is nudging Bill Gates for the title of richest person in the world, recently tweeted that he was seeking to help people “at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact,” adding, “If you have any ideas, just reply to this tweet…”

I am struck by the phrase “the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.” What a simple way of expressing where members of the Vincentian Family try to live. We have long had a history of addressing urgent needs. Recently we have been recovering a forgotten insight about the gift Vincent and Louise excelled in – collaboration which led to many unrecognized forms of systemic change. (Contributions of the Charism)

Heroic pioneers in systemic change such as Wolfgang Pucher and Pedro Opeka, among many others, come immediately to mind. They have lived at the intersection for decades. They have excelled at working at this intersection and have been recognized with international awards.

With the announcement, next week at a meeting of the European Union of the “Vincentian Family Homeless Global Initiative on Homelessness” the Vincentian Family as a whole seems about to grow into something of a movement.

This initiative to address homelessness in all its forms and root causes has grown out of the confluence of three strands:

  • The growing awareness among members of our Vincentian Family of our common heritage of practical concern for the marginalized
  • The recovery of the concept of collaboration as exhibited 400 years ago among the members of the Confraternities of Charity (AIC), the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity
  • The recognition of the necessity of changing systems which keep people on the margins and the potential of collaboration for collective impact.

The initiative stands in the face of counter influences of trends toward isolation, building to walls that attempt to look away from the misery of our brothers and sisters.

So it is exciting to read that our celebration of the 400th anniversary of our charism is moving toward an ambitious but achievable set of goals focused on homelessness in all its forms:

(1) People without accommodation; e.g. street sleepers

(2) People living in temporary accommodation; e.g. refugee camps or internally displaced people

(3) People living in inadequate/insecure accommodation; e.g. slums and favelas, bed and breakfast, hostels.

The Institute of Global Homelessness, as a Vincentian Partnership between DePaul University and Depaul International, recently worked with experts from the worlds of academia, service delivery, policy and advocacy to create the first-ever global definition of homelessness which has been acknowledged by the UN.

This thematic flows naturally out of the 2017 agreed goal of the Vincentian Family to collaborate around the idea of “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” It is envisaged that this 3-year pilot would extend into a commitment up until 2030 in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in which the European Union is playing a leading role.

The attached project plan covers seven areas:

  • Using Measurement and Data
  • Planning Together
  • Building Global Capacity
  • Institute of Global Homelessness
  • Encouraging Structural Change
  • Communicating Progress
  • Formation.

To facilitate the sharing of this information rapidly, .famvin is happy to make the letter and the accompanying documents available for download. Click on the following links to download the documents.

Not everyone will have the time or inclination to read the documents but it is important to know that at the least they describe truly significant and comprehensive planning for those who live “at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.”

Hopefully, someone will respond to Jeff Bezos and draw his attention to our initiative.