(Con’t. from yesterday’s post)
“Being Closed Down, the Second Time Around” (March 21,2020)
Resolved to open again for the sake of our dear homeless sisters and brothers, we modified our plans. We placed more volunteers to guide the beneficiaries in observing their “social distances,” marked “X” the spots where beneficiaries will be standing outside; suspended eating inside the Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center, but allowed them to take a fresh shower with clean clothes and take out a healthy packed food with vitaminC and an orange fruit.
It was working smoothly, along with the added presence of our Provincial Superior, Fr. Jerome Marquez, Espiritu Santo Parish Priest Fr. Wilmer Rosario and some 4 SVD priests assisting our homeless beneficiaries outside.
There were even some policemen in full gear who surprisingly came to assist, ONLY at the beginning. Then what we anticipated happened, the Brgy Capt Allan Yamson with his cohorts disrupted those lining from the end and asked them to leave.
The Homeless Driven Away.
I insisted. I appealed. I deplored the authorities to see how the process was in order, swift and smooth. But their stubborness, their rigidity, and their ZERO COMPASSION for the homeless during that day was empty.
The Homeless, compared to animals, were better off that day.
They were shouted at, ridiculed, despised that day by the so-called educated and powerful.
Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center lost that day.
I felt so wounded and betrayed; I was less of a human being and even ashamed to be called a member of a community or barangay.
Just as I was anticipating that “forces of evil” will close down Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center and its mission, I already called Bro. Armin Luistro and Bp. Broderick Pabillo, DD to possibly welcome the most vulnerable and elderly into their abode. Both of them gladly and with open arms welcomed the elderly beneficiaries of Arnold Janssen Kalinga Foundation into their abode.
In less than a week, 4 other SAFE SHELTERS were opened. Fr.Maxell Aranilla of Paco Catholic School 1&2, Fr.Boy Biliran of Malate Catholic School, Fr.Nolan Que of Espiritu Santo and,Tahanan Ni San Benito of St.Scholastica College opened their doors.
During the first quarter of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center was able to gather and provide dignified care to at least 500 homeless beneficiaries.
Apart from the Catholic schools in Manila who opened their homes to the Strangers around them, Jesuit priests, Albert Alejo, SJ, Manoling Francisco,SJ and JunJun Viray, SJ of Ateneo de Manila University quietly, yet significantly, helped sustain the food of our 7 Safe Shelters for the next 4 months.
When God closes a window, he opens a door.
As I was driving back and forth managing the “7 Safe Shelters” I still noticed a huge number of homeless exposed and left vulnerable and hungry in Luneta, Kalaw and Lawton.
“They were like a sheep without a Shepherd.”
After a day of planning, we (Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center) organized “Kalinga Sa Kalye”. Since they cannot be accommodated in the Safe Shelters, the least they could receive during the covid-19 pandemic and lockdown would be a decent and healthy amount of food.
Thus, we started to prepare 250 dignified food packs. These were distributed in the areas of Kalaw, Luneta, and in the Quezon City areas of E.Rodriguez, Timog, Betty-Go LRT Station, Araneta, Cubao areas. The plan was, beneficiaries wanting food need to:
+ fall in line in a distance;
+ wash thoroughly their hands with soap, and,
+ receive their dignified pack meals.
This is the very same system that is employed anywhere our homeless volunteer would distribute the dignified pack meals THEY THEMSELVES prepare, cook, pack and share to their fellow homeless, to this very day!
But what started with cooking for 250 pax has reached to 600, 800, 1,100 and surprisingly has dwindled to 450 at present.
Pag-laya sa kulturang kalye. Pagyakap sa Buhay Kalinga.
I always believe that homeless people, if and when guided, they would choose to find their way home to a more meaningful and dignified life. Arnold Janssen Bahay Kalinga was born as a fruit of the powerful’s closure of Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center.
Arnold Janssen Bahay Kalinga is a house of formation and HOPE. It’s a temporary home for homeless individuals who wish to be guided open towards being formed and those yearning to seek a way out of the street and return to the normal self-reliant and dignified way of life.
In Arnold Janssen Bahay Kalinga, each homeless beneficiary is taught how to
re-create their self-image, reclaim their self-respect, and, restore their self worth.
At least 24 homeless have been: hired and are employed, have been reunited with their families, have been referred to dignified Institutions.
May tulay at paraan sa “paglaya sa kulturang kalye, ito’y pagyakap sa buhay kalinga”.