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Shelter's Aim Is to Liberate

February 04, 1990

In recent days, Catholic Charities' Long Beach Family Shelter for the Homeless has come under fire by the newly formed Homeless Organizing Committee, which claims the shelter is oppressive in its treatment of residents and its policies and procedures (Times, Jan. 25).

It is unfortunate that the committee perceives the shelter in this manner when, in fact, the aim of the shelter, its policies and procedures, is to liberate residents from the cycle of homelessness. It is not now, nor has it ever been, the intent of Catholic Charities to add further burden to people who are already struggling with the trauma of homelessness and unemployment.

Catholic Charities today finds fewer and fewer organizations willing to commit to the financial and administrative tasks of running a shelter. We need the support of our homeless guests as much as they need our shelter.

Lupe Macker, Catholic Charities regional director in Long Beach, has unjustly come under fire for her administration of the shelter and been accused of lacking a true concern for the plight of the residents. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only has she shown great concern and compassion for the needy persons in her region, but she is often their advocate without promoting other personal agendas. This is clearly evident by the strong support she has received over the years from the community, the city and county. As executive director of Catholic Charities, I fully support and applaud Mrs. Macker's leadership and guidance in administration of the shelter.

Since Catholic Charities began administration of the shelter in 1984, our underlying philosophy has been to help families stay together while seeking permanent housing and employment. The Long Beach Family Shelter is one of the very few shelters in California that houses families together during the crisis of homeless.

The Long Beach Family Shelter for the Homeless has been successful in helping families mainstream into society largely because of its organization, structure and procedures. Any social service agency, in order to be effective, must maintain standards that not only ensure clients success and betterment, but protect them and their children from any abusive situations which might occur.

Catholic Charities further acknowledges the residents' right to voice their opinions and grievances not often heard. We welcome an open, honest dialogue with the Homeless Organizing Committee to address their questions and needs. We strongly believe that community input is vital to maintaining quality care for those we seek to help.

It is difficult to be homeless. It is difficult to be in a homeless shelter no matter how good the shelter may be. It is difficult to administer a shelter with ever-diminishing funds. However, despite these difficulties, Catholic Charities wishes to make this commitment and seeks partnership and support from the homeless we care for and the community we serve.

Msgr. R. DAVID COUSINEAU

Executive Director

Catholic Charities

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