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Human service agency reps warn of threat to circle of protection

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By The Catholic Telegraph

The representatives of 11 Catholic human service agencies will be meeting with local congressional staffers, including that of House Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Steve Chabot and Sen. Rob Portman in the next few weeks to make a case for protecting funds that help maintain the welfare and dignity of the most vulnerable members of society, both here and abroad.

Standing today (Wednesday) in the food pantry of the St. Vincent DePaul Society facility on Bank Street, and citing their own experiences in helping the poor, representatives of Catholic human services agencies of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati today held a news conference to reiterate the call of the U.S. Catholic bishops for government leaders to establish a “circle of protection” in federal budget negotiations around programs that help the most vulnerable U.S. citizens.

(For a video of the entire press conference, go to http://youtu.be/rdSg0ksreBg)

 

“The programs included in the ‘Circle of Protection’ are not at odds with sound fiscal policy and a strong economy,” said Liz Carter, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul, Cincinnati, in whose offices the news conference was held. “Rather, they perfectly align with the long-term goals vital to building strong, vibrant communities. We urge our political leaders to ensure a strong future by supporting ‘Circle of Protection’ programs today.

“Federal programs aimed at reducing poverty not only aspire to our higher instincts as people and a nation, they are also an excellent investment of tax-payer dollars. For example, in Hamilton County, St. Vincent de Paul utilized Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) assistance for one-time rental payments to 166 families who were in danger of becoming homeless. Of those helped, approximately 75 percent will avoid eviction for at least six months. For about $700, St. Vincent de Paul is able to keep a family stable in their home, whereas the cost of sheltering a family of four for 35 days and then getting them re-established in housing is more than $5000.”

The 11 agencies who today presented their statement of support for the “Circle of Protection” together served more than 415,000 people last year in the 19 counties of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and have a combined budget of more than $90 million annually, noted Ted Bergh, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio.

Yet, he noted, “All our agencies together, even in conjunction with faith-based and secular agencies, cannot meet the material and spiritual needs of all who are struggling through these difficult times . . . We conduct our ministries in partnership with essential government programs that provide a reasonable safety net to those in crisis while they work to get back on their feet. This is particularly so during our lingering economic downturn.”

Dr. Robert J. Wehr, executive director of St. Joseph Orphanage, estimated that about 70 percent of the families his agency serves rely on local food banks, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Women, Infant, and Children Program (WIC), and federal housing programs to meet their basic needs.

“When basic needs are not met,” he said, “children’s mental health is adversely affected. Psychiatric hospitalizations, involvement with local children’s services, school disruption, and other family crises often increase as a result of going without basic needs.”

 

Archdiocesan spokesman Dan Andriacco explained that the U.S. bishops have provided three principles that should guide the budgetary deliberations, the agencies note:

“1. Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.

2. A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.

3. Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in a manner worthy of their dignity in difficult economic times.”

The statement presented today was signed by the leaders of Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio; Healthy Moms & Babes; the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Dayton; the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Cincinnati; St. John, Cincinnati; Catholic Residential Services; St. Raphael, Hamilton; St. Joseph Home of Cincinnati; Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley; the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Catholic Social Action Office; and St. Joseph Orphanage.

 

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