ISJ Essay: Our Neighbors on the Street

Mar 1, 2024

In a recent essay for this parish newsletter, Father Hallinan asked, “What can you do this Lent to direct your focus to others in need?” Members of our parish Ignatian Social Justice Ministry, organized by Laura De Boisblanc, answered the call and participated in Don’t Walk By, an annual outreach collaboration with City Relief, New York Common Pantry, Salvation Army, and other groups. Volunteers canvassed Manhattan streets, met dozens of unhoused individuals, and invited them back to the host site, the Salvation Army headquarters on West 14 Street, for a nutritious meal, clothing, medical care, and referrals to city agencies for more services.

So, what insights/experiences/thoughts did St. Ignatius volunteers have? Below are comments from parishioners who participated in the 2024 Don’t Walk By.

JUDY AND KELLY KEENAN: We were inspired by the people we met on the street, like the man who became our best advertisement, encouraging all his friends to talk with us, and the person, though homeless, who told us he had enough to eat and did not want to take a meal from someone in greater need.

LAURA DE BOISBLANC: One man living on the street for 15 years walked ten blocks with us, chatting the entire time. All he wanted from us was to speak with a social worker and get his GED.

DOLORES TROY-QUINN: Seeing a few hundred volunteers, especially young people, reminded me there are so many people living their faith every day.

TERRY QUINN: Matthew 25 came alive on the streets of New York.

ANNE MELANSON: I am always inspired to see how a kind word, a smile, and a show of interest are welcomed by our brothers and sisters on the street.

JIMMY COFFEY: I experienced the grace of God when our team leader, Thomas, spoke with a young man who has lived on the streets for nine years. I saw that grace again when Terry and Priscilla dug deep to find the right words in Spanish to keep up a long conversation with a migrant family.

PETER WOOD: What stood out for me was that despite being stripped of the material benefits that we take for granted, our neighbors living on the streets expressed gratitude…on this special day, we recognized our neighbors as just that. Neighbors.

— Terry Quinn