On the eve of Pope Francis' visit to New York City, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday the Archdiocese of New York and the city are partnering to provide 150 "emergency" beds for the homeless in church facilities around the city.
The Catholic Church's contribution is part of the "Opening Doors" initiative to find space for 500 beds in faith-based organizations through the city, providing short-term shelter, meals and social services.
"We have to honor Pope Francis. We have to heed his call," de Blasio said at a news conference at a friary in the Bronx. "Doesn't matter what faith you are, doesn't matter what country you live in, he's asking all of us to do more to help those in need."
The $12 million "Opening Doors" program would nearly double the number of beds already in place at nonprofits through the separate "Safe Haven" initiative.
"There's nothing we're more natural and good about doing than feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless," Dolan said of churches.
Having houses of worship provide shelter may "in a very interpersonal way" help many people who are otherwise reluctant to accept housing, said Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of the archdiocese's Catholic Charities arm.
About 58,000 people sleep in city shelters each night, according to the Coalition of Homeless Services. The city Department of Homeless Services said more than 3,000 people live on the streets.
After the event, called "Opening Doors," Jean Rice, formerly homeless and now a board member with the advocacy group Picture the Homeless, called it a good start.
"Half a loaf is better than no loaf at all," he said.