By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
The university-area house that was a rectory, a convent and a homeless shelter for women will soon continue in a new ministerial mode.
Thanks in part to a $25,000 check from All Saints Church in Syracuse, the Rescue Mission Runaway & Homeless Youth Shelter plans on opening in early 2022, with, as Father Frederick Daley noted, a nice view of All Saints right across the street. The renovated house will help any homeless youths ages 12 to 17, with a focus on LGBTQ+ youth due to their disproportionately higher needs. Services will be free, voluntary and confidential.
“This building means a lot to All Saints Parish,” Father Daley, the pastor, said Dec. 9 at the shelter’s open house. The building was constructed as the rectory for All Saints’ predecessor, St. Therese the Little Flower Church, in 1926. In the 1950s when St. Therese School was built, the building became the convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught at the school. Catholic Charities eventually ran the structure as Dorothy Day House for women and children. It was a “good deal” to buy it from Catholic Charities, said Dan Sieburg, CEO of the Rescue Mission Alliance of Syracuse.
All Saints became interested in the project, Father Daley said, because a study showed that 40 percent of the homeless kids on the streets of Syracuse “identify as LGBTQ. … And so this is sort of a logical next step that we’re taking children off the streets into a safe home and environment where they can receive support and be able to grow and become as we would say what God made them to be.”
A safe house
The key, he said, is that the shelter will be a safe house: “Study after study shows that the more religious a family is, the more likely they are to reject their [LGBTQ] children and throw them out.” A poster at the open house said 7 percent of youth in the general population identify as LGBTQ; 40 percent in the homeless population.
In addition to the grant of $25,000 that his parish gave the house through the parish tithing, Father Daley said, several parishioners made private donations. Also, All Saints Parish held a neighborhood meeting and “we have found that the neighborhood is very, very supportive of this project,” he said.
After the check presentation, Father Daley toured the house, which features new flooring, new paint and a fresh look to everything else too, including the expansive kitchen and dining room. In one room an old-style scalloped light fixture shines overhead, in contrast to the elegant slender metal light on the little bedside table. The 10 single rooms for youths sport new windows, and new cabinets complement the refurbished closets whose original wood shines as well.
“The house has never looked better,” Father Daley said. “They’ve done a fantastic job at renovating this house. The children coming into this building are going to come into a warm, clean, safe home.”
“If you’re experiencing homelessness, we want to make sure that you’re having the most welcoming experience to get through that traumatic time,” explained Dan Sieburg, CEO of the Rescue Mission Alliance of Syracuse.
An advisory group started looking into homelessness in 2014, said Sieburg. He said the specific needs of LGBTQ youth have not been met in most communities throughout the country. The home will work with the schools, the county and the city “to make sure no kids are on the street and homeless.”
Children living at the shelter will be encouraged to remain in school, with transportation provided. For the 60 to 120 days of their stay, they will receive food, clothing and case management; referrals for outside services will include medical and mental-health care and legal assistance. When it is safe to do so they will be placed permanently with their family, their extended family or a friend.
Offering their skills
All Saints parishioners and neighbors will be offering their skills in tutoring. “We would welcome volunteers down the line if people have skills they want to share,” said Amanda Higuchi, program manager of the shelter.
She said the staff will include the case manager and probably seven or eight client-care specialists who will help manage the house and do intakes. Youths will be welcome to stay, she said, as long as they are not a danger to themselves or to anyone else. The first reviews are finished and the home continues to work on state certification, she said.
“A lot of people are really passionate about this project,” she said, and contributors have included churches, individuals and foundations. “We think it’s wonderful,” she said of All Saints’ $25,000 check, “we’re so happy to have them as neighbors.”
Sponsor opportunities remain: full naming of the shelter, $1M; central air conditioning, $60,000; transportation vehicle, $40,000; Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, $20,000; activities fund, $5,500; outdoor furnishings, $3,000; food pantry, $3,000; one-month overnight cost for one youth, $3,700; and single overnight cost for one youth, $125.
“Think of the wonderful sacrifice that people made to this building in 1926 to build this rectory,” Father Daley said, “and look—it’s served people for heading towards 100 years.”
What would people from 100 years ago think about the home’s use today?
“I would say from their view in heaven,” he said, “they’re thrilled.
As he left the open house, Father Daley assured Higuchi that All Saints has the facilities to host a big meeting or an event—“your house is our house.”