Christ House - History and Heart
Christ House began in August
of 1981, not as a response to a social need, but as a probing of two gospel
challenges: Have no care for tomorrow, for I will provide and Love
your neighbor. Our focus has always been more on ministry, and not on
institutional concerns such as long range plans for growth and fund raising.. We
have focused on the meeting the temporal and spiritual needs of the men who have
come to us over the years, relying on God to guide us forward through the many
changes that are a part of any ministry.
Our first goal was to provide
short term housing for young men on the street who were waiting to be admitted
to a rehab program. We soon had many undocumented immigrants and men released
from prison, these requiring longer term housing. At one point we had six men
from Romania who had walked across Europe and stowed away on a container ship to
reach New York. Slowly we became a residence for men who were political asylum
seekers and refugees, usually when they were released from detention centers and
had no where to go or no one to help them. This has been the focus of our
ministry and house for over fifteen years.
The house was Mother Teresa’s
first site in the America. A rather typical row home, it is on 142 Street in the
South Bronx. Having three floors and a basement, we can accommodate only eight
residents at a time, but we have found that having a small community is an
advantage for the men we serve. The building was owned by the Lutheran Church,
and was given to Christ House when it was incorporated. Although started by a
Roman Catholic, a Christian Brother, it has always been open to people of all
faiths and no faith:-- Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus from China,
Nepal, Afghanistan, Russia, England, Peru, Mexico, Togo, Congo, Nigeria –from
all over the world.
In the beginning we had lay
volunteers as well as religious brothers living here with the residents;
presently there is a resident director living on site, and space for seven
residents. We contract with them to keep them six months, time enough for them
to get the papers and lives in order, to find a job and save a little money.
Some have gone on to Job Corps. If they should enroll in school, we generally
keep them until they finish their course or degree.
In the early ‘90's, through
the generosity of a board member, we purchased at auction from the city an
adjacent building which had been burned out and abandoned. Using mostly
volunteer help and our own residents, we rehabed it and used it for ten years or
more in our ministry. Several years ago we sold it in order to secure money to
keep the first residence going.
Over the years we have
provided a residence for over 600 men, all of whom had a real need for a
temporary home. Included them were some who were HIV positive, one with leprosy,
several with real psychological problems, and most with stories of oppression
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