Vincent de Paul was born in April of 1581 to peasant farmers in France. He was an avid reader at a young age and decided to go into the priesthood for a very practical reason…to look after his family financially. He was first ordained at the age of 19. He is perhaps best known for his compassion, humility and generosity. He was able to recruit and organize patrons from his parish to address housing, food and other basic needs issues that the poor of his time faced. Many organizations are named for him, including De Paul University, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and our own St. Vincent de Paul Middletown. (SVDM)
Fast forward about 400 years. The year is 1980 and the Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut and the Sisters of Mercy open St. Vincent de Paul Place here in Middletown. The mission? Meeting needs and offering hope. The need for safe and affordable housing has not changed. The need for nutritious food continues to be addressed by our Soup Kitchen and the Amazing Grace Food Pantry. Every day about 200 individuals use the soup kitchen and more than 800 families shop at the food pantry every month. Both of these statistics speak to a significant continuing need.
Getting a homeless person housed sounds great, but what then? Did the problem(s) that caused homelessness suddenly go away? SVDM’s Supportive Housing model starts by offering people a good assessment, after which suitable housing may be arranged with the specific support services one individual or family needs to make the housing both permanent and successful. Rides to addiction related and other medical or mental health appointments, regular meetings to go over goals, social activities, budget assistance and assistance with cellular phones are just a few of the things that our case managers do. Case managers encourage our housing guests to become contributing members of the community.
The Soup Kitchen has taken on the role of a community triage center. New guests coming for breakfast, lunch or a bagged sandwich dinner are approached to see if there is something that they might need. At the Amazing Grace Food Pantry, guests have access to apply for many different assistance programs that could help them or their families.
We run a Post Office for the homeless, a Community Assistance Program for short term energy, transportation or rent assistance…we even act as rep/payee for clients who have a hard time managing money. Overall, we look where there may be a significant need and try to fill it. Sometimes it is just a referral to the right organization for the right kind of help.