Staff and volunteers at the 168 Catholic Charities agencies nationwide are there when their communities need them. Through empty cupboards, natural disasters, housing shortages – all the ups and downs of life – they serve people just like you. Catholic Charities is making a difference for neighbors in need, because We Are There (WeAreThere.US) isn’t just words, it’s a promise.

Serving Up Food and Cooking Lessons

In the past year, the Catholic Charities network served more than 30 million meals to vulnerable people at risk of hunger – at food pantries and congregate dining settings, in summer and afterschool programs for children and to seniors in affordable housing communities. Food and nutrition programs are often the gateway for clients to be assessed for and receive other necessary services from a Catholic Charities agency.

Many agencies also grow some of the food they serve, and teach clients how to grow food, as well, to supplement their meals with healthy fruits and vegetables. For example, Common Earth Gardens, a project of Catholic Charities of Louisville, Inc., works with refugees from Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, among other places. More than 450 gardeners are growing tomatoes, corn, onions and greens on leased plots that average roughly 900 square feet. The program offers the refugees – many of whom farmed in their home countries – technical support and educational opportunities, all with the goal of helping them acclimate and become independent. “It’s an identity, it’s a life. A way for people to literally feel rooted in their new homeland,” says Program Director Jane Evans.

Providing Calm after the Storm

In any given year, the Catholic Charities network responds to dozens of natural and manmade disasters. The CCUSA Disaster Response Team partners with local agency staff on the ground to provide what’s needed, whether that’s food, water, tarps and diapers, or temporary housing and emergency funding. Agency staff, often themselves the victims of the disaster, are in it for the long haul, working with their communities well after the news cameras have left, helping their neighbors rebuild their lives when they may have lost everything.

Flooding, tornadoes and a hard freeze in Jackson, Mississippi, in 2022 tipped the region’s water system into collapse, leaving citizens without potable water for bathing or cooking and forcing them to turn, indefinitely, to bottled water. CCUSA and Catholic Charities Jackson, Inc., jumped into action. The result? The distribution of more than 7,500 bottles of water as well as cases of gallon water jugs, faucet water filters, canned and boxed food that requires no water to prepare, disinfectant and mops, wipes, dry shampoo and other personal hygiene items. Supplies went out almost as soon as they came in, both at the agency – where residents could walk or drive up – and at distribution points throughout the city. Local parishioners picked up cases of water for homebound elderly neighbors, and Good Samaritans routinely dropped off water and other commodities. Says staff member Angela Taylor-Grey, “Getting out there, making sure you’re trying to meet the needs in the community — that’s really important to me.”

Affordable Housing, with Dignity

With more than 38,000 units, the Catholic Charities network is one of the country’s largest providers of affordable housing. As housing prices climb and the number of safe, affordable units goes down, more and more people are feeling the squeeze. Some of our most vulnerable neighbors – low-wage workers, people with disabilities, the elderly – are living in the most untenable situations.

The CCUSA Healthy Housing Initiative (HHI) five-year pilot program making a difference in the lives of one particularly vulnerable population, those experiencing chronic homelessness. Now in its fourth year, the program has reached 80% of its goal, housing 564 formerly chronically homeless people and connecting them to primary health care and wraparound social services, reducing ER usage. People like Jason, who had been living on the streets and in nightly shelters for more than eight years after a youth spent in foster and group homes, years that were marked by physical and sexual abuse. His only medical support has come from regular visits to the nearest emergency room. Recently, Jason took up residence in an HHI housing unit and is now comfortably housed. His newly gained stability has allowed him to engage with medical and behavioral health providers, leading to a reduction in his blood pressure and alcohol use. “I have found a place where I can leave my shame behind,” he says.

Give, Volunteer, Support

The Catholic Charities network could not do all that it does without the dedication of its more than 215,000 volunteers and the many generous donors who support their work. Learn more about how you can play a part in this life-giving work at WeAreThere.US.