The Interfaith San Antonio Alliance (ISSA), a diverse multi-faith coalition, took a united stand to make housing more affordable and end the scourge of homelessness in San Antonio with a press event and proclamation signing at the Haven for Hope Chapel November 15.
In his remarks, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, noted that the issues of homelessness and the lack of affordable housing are related, and that during unexpectedly cold days experienced in mid-November there is even more awareness of the issue. “While we have accomplished so much here in San Antonio regarding assistance to the homeless, as evidenced by the exceptional work of Haven for Hope and its affiliated social care agencies, like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities,” said the archbishop, “yet we are painfully aware that the problems of homelessness persist, and even expand.”
Archbishop Gustavo cautioned that in a time when some are experiencing incredible economic success, that in San Antonio too many people are not sharing in these blessings. “Many young citizens remain under-educated. Many neighborhoods suffer from blight and decay,” he stressed. “Low income property owners and renters get pressured to move away from their homes, their families, and neighborhoods, as they cannot sustain the costs of rising property values and taxes. Some are exploited by ruthless speculators.”
The Missionary of the Holy Spirit emphasized that San Antonio should take legitimate pride in its accomplishments, but without forgetting — without leaving behind — its most vulnerable neighbors. “Through good public policy, the cooperation of citizens of good will, and the involvement of the communities of faith we can accomplish much!” he exclaimed. “This proclamation, which I am honored to sign along with these other faith leaders, my colleagues, is an outward sign of the commitment of the Catholic Church community to caring for our neighbors, and working to end the scourge of homelessness and unaffordable housing.”
Speaking earlier this year about the plight of the poor and the homeless, Pope Francis referred to their economic circumstances as a form of modern slavery. The pope said, “From his lowering we have been raised up. From his smallness has come our greatness. From his fragility, our strength. From his becoming a servant, our freedom. What name to give to all this, if not Love?” he stated.”
The San Antonio prelate concluded, “Now is our moment to love. This love must take the concrete form of sheltering the homeless, and providing affordable housing for all who are in need.”
Welcome and introductions at the gathering were made by Rev. Ann Fraser, associate rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, the opening prayer was prayed by Pastor Max Lucado of Oak Hills Church; the unity of purpose was given by from Omar Shakir of Masjid Bilal Ibn Rabah of San Antonio, and the closing blessing was presented by Dr. G.P. Singh, faith leader of Sikh Dharamsal.
An affirmation of partnership was reiterated by Mayor Ron Nirenberg of the City of San Antonio, and the proclamation was introduced by Rabbi Emeritus Samuel M. Stahl of Temple Beth-El. The proclamation was then read by Rev. Mignon Jones-Spann, associate minister at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church
Rev. Wyndee Holbrook, director of the ISSA, invited faith leaders forward to sign the proclamation.
Photos: Veronica Markland for Today’s Catholic Newspaper