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Illinois religious order funds hotel initiative to protect homeless from coronavirus

Homeless
Credit: glasseyes view via Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

– As homeless shelters have been limited by the coronavirus, the Clerics of Saint Viator will help fund an initiative to house homeless people amid the pandemic.

The religious order based in Arlington Heights, a Chicago suburb, has donated $63,000 to help over 60 homeless people stay at two hotels in the city. The initiative will last for at least three weeks, but it will likely be extended.

The religious order partnered with Journeys: The Road Home in Palatine to help homeless people have a place to quarantine during this pandemic. As of March 25, over 1,800 cases of the coronavirus have occurred in Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reported.

As the organization has also received donations from numerous other religious organizations in the area, the hotels were able to house 81 people last night with 10 more clients who will be checked-in today.

Suzanne Ploger, Journey’s director of development, told CNA that it is essential to help homeless people protect themselves from the virus as they are unable to self-quarantine.

Not only has the pandemic caused public facilities and businesses to close, but it has closed homeless shelters. Because of the pandemic, the organization’s services and volunteers have been limited. She said a majority of the volunteers for the homeless ministry are elderly people, who also need to be kept safe from the outbreak.

Experts are urging people to “ stay indoors, and then all the restaurants are closing and all the public facilities are closing,” she said.

“If you don’t have a home to shelter in place, where are you supposed to be? That’s where we were struggling with how we can provide the best services to our clients and keep them safe as well as be able to keep our staff and our volunteers healthy too.”

She said the clients have been chosen by those who are most at risk of COVID-19. She said the organization has prioritized 100 people who normally use their shelters and ranked them in terms of those with advanced age, families, or health issues.

“As we have secured the hotel room and we have secured the amount of funding to house that person in that hotel room for three weeks, then we house them and then we’d go down to the next rank on the list,” she said.

The organization will also help feed the clients in the hotel with a meal delivery system.

“We’re packing up food pantry bags, we’re packing up meals, some people are donating food again, and we’re starting that system of delivering meals to the hotels. Right now we’re doing it almost every day,” she said.

The Journey is a homeless service agency that partners with 21 religious organizations that provide emergency shelter. It began 30 years ago and, under normal circumstances, will house about 100 homeless people each night.

Besides the hotel, the organization will keep open a limited number of services including a food pantry, clothing closet, mail services, and emergency case management.

Father Daniel Hall, the provincial superior for the Viatorians, said, without living assistance, this pandemic may cause dozens of homeless people to get sick. He said this project should be important to Catholics and encouraged parishioners to donate.

“This is in line with our mission as a Catholic religious community,” said Hall, according to the Daily Herald. “This crisis could lead to between 60 to 80 men, women and children on the verge of living on the streets, and even more vulnerable to the coronavirus.”

“It is my hope that you join us in this commitment to care for our most vulnerable sisters and brothers during this crisis.”

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/illinois-religious-order-funds-hotel-initiative-to-protect-homeless-from-coronavirus-37882

Kiev monastery fights coronavirus with homemade hand sanitizer

Screenshot_2020-03-25 Kiev monastery fights coronavirus with homemade hand sanitizer
A clergyman of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine packs bottles of hand sanitizer at the Vydubychi Monastery in Kiev, Ukraine March 21, 2020. Priests and students of the theological seminary produce hand sanitizer and donate it to the elderly and people in need to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

KIEV, – The black-robed Orthodox clerics sit in a line under an icon in one of Ukraine’s oldest monasteries, mixing up batches of hand sanitizer to distribute to the poor and the needy.

Wearing purple disposable gloves, the clergy and students in the 11th-century Vydubychi complex concentrate as they follow the recipe set out by World Health Organization and use sterilised gear to fill row after row of plastic bottles.

The monastery in Kiev started the operation after hearing people were struggling to get enough sanitizer to protect themselves against the coronavirus, Roman Holodov, head of the social assistance department at the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, said.

“People are in a panic, especially poor people who have no access to sanitizers,” he told Reuters.

Hundreds of bottles filled with clear liquid are boxed up in a room that used to be a Sunday school.

They are then sent to destinations scrawled on a whiteboard – cities from Odessa in the south to Mariupol in the east, close to the frontline of Ukraine’s simmering conflict with Russian-backed separatists.

Churches across the denominations have started adapting to the coronavirus which at the last count has infected 73 people in the country and killed three.

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church broadcast Sunday services online to comply with restrictions on gatherings. Priests have asked the faithful to stop kissing crosses or relics.

Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Major Archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church, delivered his sermon in the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ of Sunday. The chairs were mostly empty, but more than 20,000 people watched on YouTube.

The spoon he used to administer communion to the few worshippers who were present was disinfected after each use.

“At our request, at our call, people stayed at home. And in my opinion, it shows their Christian and civic sense of responsibility,” he told Reuters after the service.

 

Brazil eases residency visa requirements for trafficking victims

Screenshot_2020-03-25 Brazil eases residency visa requirements for trafficking victims
ARCHIVE PHOTO: Workers are pictured at a construction site in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 6, 2015. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

RIO DE JANEIRO,- H uman trafficking survivors will have an easier time gaining residence in Brazil after they are rescued, according to an ordinance issued by the government on Tuesday.

The measure creates a special procedure to expedite the issue of visas to migrants subjected to trafficking and violent crimes like domestic abuse, the government said.

Brazil is a regional hub for human trafficking, but rescued survivors have been without a clear path to residency since a 2017 change in the nation’s migration law, experts said.

Under the new measure, a visa applicant must be recognized as a victim by government authorities. Then migration authorities have a final say, taking into account if the victims cooperate with efforts to catch their abusers.

When granted, the visa authorizes migrants to work legally in Brazil.

“This … protects abused immigrants, usually women, who suffer aggression and violent relationships,” said Andre Furquim, director of the migration department at the National Secretariat of Justice, in a statement.

In Brazil, trafficking victims from Bolivia, Paraguay, Haiti and China have been found in forced labor and debt-bondage, particularly in the construction and textile industries, according to the U.S. 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report.

About 40 million people globally are estimated to be enslaved – in forced labor and forced marriages – in a trade worth an estimated $150 billion a year to human traffickers, according to the U.N. International Labour Organization (ILO).

But changes in Brazil’s migration law in 2017 that overturned an earlier residency ordinance left trafficked migrants in legal limbo, said Joao Chaves, a federal public defender and migration specialist.

“We have been waiting for this for two years and four months,” he said.

Larissa Getirana, from Caritas, a non-profit that helps migrants, said she considered it “unfair” for the government to make survivors’ cooperation with criminal investigations a determining factor in their applications.

“They are people who have already gone through an exploitative situation,” she said.

She also questioned the requirement that applicants provide an official document with a photograph, given that traffickers often take identification documents away from their captives.

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200324195919-3j8pr/

‘My hands are my tractor’: Urban gardens take root in Johannesburg

Screenshot_2020-03-23 'My hands are my tractor' Urban gardens take root in Johannesburg
Refiloe Molefe smiles with friends at her inner city farm in Johannesburg, South Africa, 17 February 2020. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Kim Harrisberg

JOHANNESBURG, – Whenever people walked by the overgrown bowling green in Johannesburg’s working-class Bertrams neighbourhood, they saw an eyesore.

But Refiloe Molefe saw a chance to feed her community.

The 60-year-old former nurse has been farming on the 500-square-metre (5,380 square feet) bowling green for more than a decade, after she asked the city for food for the creche she was running for 15 children.

The authorities had none to give her, so she requested the land to grow her own instead.

“We may not have money, but we have land and food. And to garden here is our therapy,” Molefe said, crushing a piece of rosemary between her fingers before smelling the leaves and smiling.

Seed by seed, Johannesburg – a city known for high crime levels and rapid urbanisation – is becoming home to a crop of urban farmers fighting concrete to grow fruit and vegetables so they can feed their families and neighbours.

The United Nations estimates two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, up from 56% today.

And Africa is the continent urbanising the fastest, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city with a population of more than 4.4 million according to the most recent census data, has grown nearly 40% since the previous census in 2001.

“There are people from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nigeria and Malawi here. We have the opportunity to grow food together, to live together and to eat together,” said Molefe.

“But we need land to do this.”

There are about 300 urban farms in Johannesburg, according to Nthatisi Modingoane, spokesman for the City of Johannesburg.

And more are sprouting up, said food security researcher Brittany Kesselman.

“We are seeing farms in schools, churches, clinics, rooftops and backyards,” said Kesselman, who is also a raw food chef.

“It is a challenge, but urban farmers are bravely fighting hunger in Johannesburg.”

According to the South African Cities Network, an urban development think tank, more than 40% of Johannesburg households are food insecure, meaning they are unable to access affordable and nutritious food.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200320052234-jaoqg/

 

Indian court backs slavery survivors in compensation fight

Screenshot_2020-03-17 Indian court backs slavery survivors in compensation fight
ARCHIVE PHOTO: A survivor of slavery who wished to remain anonymous poses for a picture in New Delhi, India March 7, 2018. Picture taken March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

CHENNAI, India,- An Indian court has ordered the state of West Bengal to give trafficking survivors the full compensation they are entitled to without pre-conditions, a ruling lawyers said could help other victims access the money they need to rebuild their lives.

In a first, the Calcutta High Court last week quashed West Bengal’s policy of forcing survivors to put their victim compensation money in a 10-year bank scheme, and only allowing them access to the monthly interest payments.

In it’s ruling, the court said that the amount of money awarded to victims by the government was already “meager and ought not to be further fettered”, while calling on state authorities to end their “big brother” approach.

“The court has empowered survivors,” said policy advocate Kaushik Gupta, who represented the victims in court.

“The state had a very patriarchal and parental approach towards an adult citizen. Survivors should be given financial guidance but their money should not be controlled.”

India reported 3,000 cases of trafficking in 2017, with the victims largely being poor women and children being lured with better jobs and pushed into slavery by traffickers.

West Bengal has traditionally had very high trafficking numbers and has struggled to successfully rehabilitate survivors, anti-trafficking campaigners said.

Currently, less than 1% of India’s trafficking survivors win victim compensation – which is funded by the central government but distributed by states.

Such compensation awards are hindered by low awareness of the schemes and the high burden of proof it takes to succeed, studies have shown.

Every state has its own version of the scheme, with compensation running from 100,000 rupees ($1,400) to 1,000,000 rupees with pre-conditions attached.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200317094948-oega9/

 

Coronavirus quarantine: How Catholics in Italy are helping the poor

Virus
A woman walks past a “Wall of Kindness,” a charity work phenomenon, encouraging people to items such as winter clothing for the homeless, on Jan 25, 2020 in Milan. Credit: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty

– While Italy is under nationwide quarantine to combat the coronavirus pandemic, Catholic charities throughout the country are doing what they can to help the poor and most vulnerable.

In Milan, the center of the Italian epidemic, the Caritas Ambrosiana Catholic charity network has kept open the doors of its shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries, albeit with some modifications to help keep people safe.

“In the midst of the emergency we have tried to balance two principles: public health and the support of people in difficulty,” the spokesperson, Francesco Chiavarini, told CNA by phone.

At soup kitchens and food pantries, people are first checked for fevers and then enter in limited numbers. Night shelters and dormitories are now kept open during the day for the homeless.

“In this moment, life is very complicated for the homeless,” Chiavarini said, explaining that places where people without homes go to escape the region’s still cold weather, public libraries for example, are now all closed.

The Italian government has ordered people to remain at home during the quarantine, but people living on the street have no way to comply with that mandate.

“In some way, with this little initiative, we are trying to resolve this paradox,” the Caritas spokesperson said. “It’s a drop in the ocean really, but it’s what we can do.”

Milan’s Caritas hopes that during this difficult time, the shelters can become a “home” for those who do not have one.

People in northern Italy are “really, really worried,” Chiavarini said. As the number of cases grows, so does the risk of the collapse of the health service.

He encouraged Catholics to think of ways they can show closeness and solidarity to others, even while they cannot be physically near them.

Caritas Internationalis’ is helping refugees in Italy know what is going on with the coronavirus and what they should do.

In Rome, the Catholic lay community of Sant’Egidio has volunteers continuing to bring food to people living on the streets. Volunteers are also handing out products such as facial tissues and hand sanitizer to the poor.

The community’s soup kitchens also remain open with extra precautionary measures, such as limiting the number of people who can enter at one time, ensuring hygiene and physical distance between people.

Sant’Egidio encouraged people to do their part to combat isolation by reaching out with phone and video calls, letters, and messages to the elderly and disabled, especially those in institutions where they cannot be visited because of the risk of contagion.

In an interview with Vatican Media, the president of Sant’Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo, said it is important to remember the most vulnerable — such as the homeless, the elderly, and hospice patients — during this time.

“You have to find new ways to stay close to these people, naturally avoiding being infected and infecting, it is something that requires a lot of intelligence, a lot of creativity, and a lot of passion and love,” he said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/coronavirus-quarantine-how-catholics-in-italy-are-helping-the-poor-59229

Nonprofit seeks to provide computers to Iraqi Christian schools

DFA5A91B-1C8B-40FD-ACCC-17DAC347F9E8
Refugee children at a refugee camp in Duhok, Iraq, March 28, 2015. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

– While Christian schools in Iraq continue to suffer, a non-profit that promotes positive engagement in the Middle East is aiming to provide computers to Assyrian Christian schools.

In partnership with the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, the Philos Project is trying to raise $25,000 to install computer labs for Christian schools throughout northern Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdistan has seen a drastic decrease in educational funds, said Juliana Taimoorazy, advocacy fellow for the Philos Project and founder of Iraqi Christian Relief Council.

“These schools don’t have what they need from a technology perspective,” she said.

“It’s really debilitating because they’re unable to type on Word for example, physically or create spreadsheets. Everything they’re doing is by theory. I mean, you can imagine how integral computers are in our daily lives,” she said, pointing to the fact that most homes in Western culture have a computer.

She said that out of 23 Christian schools in the area, the project will provide computer labs for five of them. The Christian schools range from elementary to high school.

These computer labs will consist of printers, projectors, and at least five laptops, electrical wires, and internet routers.

For four years, these schools in Iraq have requested Taimoorazy for new computers because scarcely any families have this technology themselves and the few schools that do have these machines own computers that were manufactured around 2004.

“I kid you not, they have books. They study book to book through pages [on how to] create spreadsheets, how to turn it on and off, how to do a cut and paste, how to create a graphic for example, or attach a graphic into the word document,” she said.

Taimoorazy, who is the granddaughter of a survivor of the Armenian genocide, has also been persecuted in Iraq for her faith. She said Christian children not only face difficulties to obtain their education but they have also been persecuted. During her time in Iran, she talked about times when she was not allowed to play with Muslim children and moments when she was ridiculed for her faith.

She said that since the invasion of the Islamic State funds for Christian schools have drastically decreased.

“People started giving to life-sustaining projects like food, tents, and repairing their homes, if they’re going back to their homes. The amount of money that was allocated for schools, for teachers or transportation or printing books and translating books from Kurdish to Assyrian or Syriac, it’s dropped to really a very, very low level.”

Among other hardships that these schools face, she said educators continue to teach without being paid and some students are not able to access school because of a lack of transportation.

However, she said they are strong-willed people with a deep respect for education. Some of the students are even trilingual, understanding Assyrian, Arabic, and Kurdish. She said that while parents will struggle with the basic necessities, these families will sacrifice to further their children’s education.

“They’re actually resilient children, but they haven’t seen anything but war, devastation, hunger, and yet they have such love, profound love for education,” she said.

“[These] people will grow up to go out there in the world to serve humanity and based on their own experience, based on the trauma that they’ve gone through, they can be even more impactful. I come from a traumatized generation … We suffer from collective and generational trauma. We have been persecuted. My great grandparents were persecuted.”

She expressed hope that the worldwide Christian community and people of goodwill will take this project seriously. She stressed the importance of offering these children equal opportunities in technology, noting that, in order to be successful, these children must have hands-on experience with computers.

“We have to remember what John Paul II said that ‘the Church breathes with both lungs’ and we cannot forget the right lung of the Church, which is Eastern Christianity. So my plea to the Catholic world, to the Christian world in the West is not to forget their brothers and sisters in the East, and to really help these young minds, these young children to lead dignified lives,” she said.

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/nonprofit-seeks-to-provide-computers-to-iraqi-christian-schools-14988