We are riding for Mercy Housing to bear witness to the fantastic work they do. Everyone knows about Habitat for Humanity, which has done wonderful work across the nation for building affordable housing. But no one seems to know anything about Mercy Housing. Until my friend Bill Goldsmith started working for them, I had never heard of Mercy. Bill is the president of Mercy Portfolio Services and Mercy’s Mortgage Resolution Fund. Over the hundreds of miles we’ve ridden together, Bill has taught me much about Mercy, and I’m quite their advocate now!
Thirty years ago in Omaha, Nebraska, several women religious were working at a Sisters of Mercy hospital. They discovered that many of low income patients they served did not have access to decent housing. They also discerned that homeless people are usually much sicker than most people, often going to a hospital emergency room for treatment. They realized that having safe, clean, affordable housing was essential to patients’ long-term health.
Guided by their purpose of assisting the healthcare needs of the poor, these first few women eventually gathered several women religious orders together and formed Mercy Housing. Sister Lillian Murphy has been their CEO for about 25 years. I met Sr. Lillian the summer of 2012 at a screening of the movie, “Band of Sisters,” a documentary about the work of women religious. Sr. Lillian and Mercy Housing were featured in the movie. It’s worth seeing, if you get a chance.
Mercy is now one of the nation’s largest affordable housing organizations. It is well known and respected among those involved in the housing industry. Working from their core Christian values, they respect the inherent dignity and sacredness of all persons, acting with justice and fair and impartial treatment of others. Mercy programs seem to work where other public housing programs have not had success, because God guides the work.
In Chicago, there was once the notorious Cabrini Green public housing facility, known nationally for its rampant crime, drugs and violence. Today in it’s place there stands a Mercy facility called the Schiff Residence, a beautiful building designed by the famous architect, Helmut Jahn. The Mercy Riders visited Schiff over the summer of 2012 and met some of the residents. Half are former chronically homeless and half low-income people. The residents love it. Part of Schiff’s success is because Mercy owns and manages the building to the highest quality standards. They provide critical case management services that help residents work through barriers to employment and assist them in being functional citizens. Having a warm place to live allows the case managers to engage formerly homeless residents at a deep level and this helps to ensure success in life.
On June 14th, 2013, in San Francisco, Mercy Housing will celebrate 30 years of service in providing affordable housing. The next day, June 15th, the Mercy Riders will begin our trek across the country to raise awareness and money for Mercy Housing. It should take about 6 weeks, averaging about 105 miles each day. Most of the time along the way, we’ll camp to save money. We’ve all been hard at work training, and planning the route and all the logistics. It will be a great adventure.
Please pray for Mercy Housing and for the people who benefit from its mission. Visit Mercy’s website, mercyhousing.org to learn more. Please share what you find with family and friends, so they may discover the wonderful things that Mercy is doing.
Visit our website, mercyriders.org to understand who we are, and in June, you can follow us on our great adventure. As we get closer to the ride, I ask that you search your hearts and pray if you can support our ride across America and the important work that one of our own catholic organizations is doing to carry out the gospel. Thank you for your support and prayers.