A collaboration among faith communities and our city’s homeless shelter residents that seeks the well-being of the whole community through hospitality, relationships, and resources.
In New York City, homelessness is more pervasive than ever, but it’s often harder to see those experiencing homelessness and living within the city shelter system; currently the system houses over 63,000 nightly guests, with roughly 24,000 of those being children. Today, about 71 percent of that shelter population is actually made up of families, a third of whom have a head of household who is working.
Time and again, the lack of affordable housing, overcrowding, and evictions continually pull our neighbors deeper into housing instability and eventually homelessness. In fact, the number of homeless New Yorkers spending each night in public shelters is currently 82 percent higher than ten years ago.
It is evident that community and supportive relationships can greatly affect an individual experiencing homelessness.
The Hospitality Initiative (H.I.) is a proactive approach to caring for our friends experiencing homelessness within the New York City shelter system. Providing both the faith community and the individual experiencing homelessness the social connection we all need to thrive in our neighborhoods.
The primary aim is to serve in the context of relationship and humility, which allows for further innovation, greater community impact. Overall, the hope is that local faith communities would be emboldened to collaborate with their neighborhood shelters in a variety of ways allowing for life transformation and eventually community transformation in New York City.
H.I. should and will look different as it tailors to each specific neighborhood.
One thing is clear: the issue of homelessness in New York City is not isolated; it extends into our commutes, our schools, our workplaces and our neighborhoods.
Though we have developed deep relationships with nonprofit partners, there are thousands of faith communities already ministering in the neighborhoods where our homeless neighbors are being (or will be) sheltered by the city. Many of them are not known much less welcomed into these communities, which in turn perpetuates the cycle of relational poverty and isolation; neighborhoods often resist new shelter sites and go as far as to seek legal action against the City.
The truth is, faith communities are filled with well-meaning individuals who want to see their neighborhoods transformed. Yet, this desire can, at times, be unfulfilled as many houses of worship do not feel equipped nor empowered to grow in relationship, community and service with their homeless neighbors.
Lack of support or connection to others may be the single most important reason why people are homeless.
-Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
How does it work?
Every community is unique with its own assets and needs, therefore, H.I. is a dynamic and adaptable model that allows each faith partner to work alongside their local shelter to provide both relational support and practical resources to their neighbors.
Connect with shelter director
Ask the director what needs the shelter and its residents may have:
Assess how your faith community (or in collaboration with others) can meet the needs
Build trust by keeping your commitments
Dream together with the shelter ways in which the relationship can flourish