Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Our Thoughts are with the Men at St. Hermans

Hospitality in Ohio City

As most have seen, the spiritual leader of St. Herman's Shelter and meal program is having significant health issues. There are now calls by "community leaders" for this capricious and whimsical director to leave the facility and focus his attention on his health. NEOCH staff do not have much contact with St. Herman's except that we all respect its value on the near west side of Cleveland. The facility does not receive any public money, but adds a strong dose of religion to every meal. They operate a small shelter, but their meal program is critical for the community. There are other meals in Ohio City and Tremont (St. Augustine, West Side Catholic, St. Malachi, and St. Patrick's), but on the weekend and on Friday night St. Herman's is the only place to go.

We hope that the gentrification crowd does not use the health issues of the director to try to close down this facility. We hope that the near west crowd does not use the guns issue to continue their effort to dislodge poor people from neighborhood. We don't want to see St. Herman's go the way of the Jay Hotel. We need a House of Hospitality like St. Hermans in every neighborhood including Ohio City and another one in Tremont as well as one in East Cleveland, Cleveland Hts, Lakewood, and Euclid. It is a refuge from the cold and a sanctuary from an overburdened society in a residential setting. St. Hermans is a part of our social safety net, and we believe the facility needs to find a new leader who can carry on the mission.

It was interesting to note that "community leaders" were concerned about a cache of guns across the street from the shelter, but had no problem with their tax dollars going to other shelters with documented substandard conditions in this community. One national expert noted that we were lucky that this facility was not administered by a Muslim congregation, because this story would have had a much different tenor. At this point, no one is alleging that there were guns on the site of the shelter or meal program. It seems that the agency that runs the largest shelter (Lutheran Metro Ministry) is going to step in to keep the program in operation. According to the Plain Dealer, Fr. John Henry is stepping aside. All these are positives for the facility. I hope that St. Herman's many supporters will come together to secure the facility for the long run. We can't forget the guys who sleep outside, but use this facility for a shower everyday. We cannot forget the families that need a little bit of help with a meal once a week at St. Herman's. And we can't forget the incredible history of providing an open door to the thousands of people in need over the last 30 years.

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