The Pope Francis Center in Detroit has been serving the city’s unhoused population for 30 years. It all began when the pastors at Saints Peter and Paul Jesuit Church in downtown Detroit opened their doors offering coffee and a warm place to rest. The efforts have since grown into an independent nonprofit organization in 2015.
Guests can receive services like access to medical professionals, dental care and employment assistance. With the end of the rent moratorium and colder weather approaching, the Pope Francis Center is relocating its operations to the TCF Center in downtown Detroit for the winter.
“There are a lot of reasons for [homelessness], there are a lot of causes for it, but ultimately the solution is connection, having connection to the support, and the services necessary to heal.” —Father Tim McCabe, Pope Francis Center
Father Tim McCabe, the executive director of the Pope Francis Center, says the move allows the center to help an additional 300 people per day. McCabe says renting TCF Center is not a long-term solution, but TCF officials have been helpful and accommodating to all of the Pope Francis Center participants and needs. McCabe says he hopes by next year, a new 5-acre campus near I-96 and Warren will be ready. McCabe says the plan is to build 40 studio apartments along with a training kitchen, dining room, a free medical clinic, gym and emergency shelter during times like the polar vortex.
The center aims to eradicate homelessness by 2030. McCabe says he visited more than 20 different programs around the country to learn about what other organizations are doing to treat chronic homelessness. While Pope Francis Center is the “premier place” to help people facing homelessness, they weren’t being transformational in their work, he says, and when he returned he developed a program to better serve the homeless population.
“We’re simply in some ways, we’re just transactional,” he says. “We’re just meeting their daily needs and offering friendship and support and the services that we provide. … [I] developed a program that I believe, based on the best practices around the country and … [what] we’ve learned from our 30 years of working with the homeless here in Detroit that we can create a program that will help meet that goal.”
Homelessness is a complicated issue, McCabe says.
“There are a lot of reasons for it, there are a lot of causes for it, but ultimately the solution is connection,” he says, “having connection to the support, and the services necessary to heal.”
Listen: Father Tim McCabe talks about how Pope Francis Center is meeting the need during colder weather.