ST. LOUIS, March 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Jon Sass, 55, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but he has volunteered six days a week for more than three years at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) in San Antonio, Texas. He helps with cleaning and organizing, the delivery of food to the SVdP pantry, and pickups of in-kind donations.
"The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is the only family that I've ever known or cared about me," said Sass.
Before becoming involved with SVdP, Sass was homeless for 35 years, dealing with chronic mental illness, and in and out of shelters and mental institutions. The cuts currently proposed in the national budget will put him and millions like him at risk.
"When folks think of people like Jon, they sometimes have a misconception that they're somehow 'taking advantage' of the system," said Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, associate executive director of the SVdP's South Central regional office in Fort Worth. "But people like Jon give back as much as they get."
Federal support in 2010 enabled SVdP in San Antonio to assist 1.37 million people with everything from meals to help with utility and housing bills, and job training and placement. "We serve some 36,000 meals a month at St. Vinny's Bistro, our dining facility in San Antonio," said Disco-Shearer. "Without that federal funding, we simply couldn't do it, and there aren't enough private donations to make up the shortfall."
Like Sass, Andrew Guzman also will be at risk if the proposed budget cuts are approved. A former convicted felon who was homeless, Guzman went through an SVdP culinary training program. He passed certification, secured a job at St. Vinny's Bistro, and eventually obtained his own apartment.
In contrast, Amie Meyers in Cincinnati, married and the mother of two small children, never thought her family would need help. A nurse, Meyers had to quit her job to care for her husband as he battled cancer. After his death, she returned to work but lost her job when her company merged with another healthcare firm. Meyers had an emergency fund that sustained her through the first few months of unemployment, but she soon found herself short and couldn't pay her utilities. SVdP soon gave her the help she needed to pay that bill.
"Everyone falls," said Meyers. "I'm just getting back up."
"When people look at those who are homeless or living in poverty, they sometimes think it's their fault or that they don't deserve help," said Roger Playwin, SVdP's national executive director. "But it doesn't take much - maybe an illness or a job loss - to put any one of us in their situation."
Joe Flannigan, national president of SVdP, added: "Some studies show that as much as 40 cents of every dollar for federal assistance programs gets siphoned off by the bureaucracy instead of going to the people it's designed to help. Our hope is that legislators can find a way to reduce the waste without putting an additional burden on the weakest and most vulnerable of our neighbors."
One of the oldest and most effective charitable organizations in the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (http://www.svdpusa.org) is a Catholic lay organization of more than 690,000 men and women throughout the world who voluntarily join together to grow spiritually and offer person-to-person service to the needy and people living in poverty in 142 countries on five continents. With the U.S. headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., membership in the United States totals more than 146,000 in 4,600 communities. Programs include home visits, housing assistance, disaster relief, job training and placement, food pantries, dining halls, clothing, transportation and utility costs, care for the elderly and medicine. Providing more than $572 million in tangible and in-kind services, SVdP serves more than 14 million people in need each year, performs more than 644,000 visits to people in their homes, and delivers more than 7 million service hours to those in need.
For more information:
Charles B. Henderson
(314) 576-3993, ext. 214 (office)
(314) 623-6505 (mobile)
SOURCE Society of St. Vincent de Paul