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A note from Sister Barbara, June 12, 2024

As I picked up my pen to write this message, I was hit by a prayer we often say in our community, the Sisters of Providence Litany of Nonviolence

Deliver us from the violence of superiority and disdain. When you think about the “homeless” or “unhoused,” what comes to your mind? The media today often tells a story many believe those experiencing homelessness are lazy, irresponsible, addicted to drugs and/or alcohol are dangerous. Frequently television news programs show pictures that reinforce the narrative, which causes many to make assumptions.

The truth, unfortunately, is that people experiencing homelessness are already marginalized. Negative press only makes it worse. One of the biggest misconceptions is that experiencing homelessness is a personal choice due to poor decision-making.

However, studies show that the reasons are due to loss of job, economic downturn, medical conditions and disabilities, family neglect or abuse and aging out of foster care, to name a few.

Grant us the desire, and the humility, to listen with special care to those experiences and attitudes different from our own. Let us stop here and talk about the barriers for people experiencing homelessness to even get a job let alone maintain it:  It is difficult to find a place to bathe, wash clothes, or even eat a proper diet.

Finding employment is difficult without an address, ID, birth certificate, bank account, or other financial institution and difficulty accessing transportation or childcare. Then let us add in racial discrimination, gender identity discrimination, age discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, lack of education and language barriers.

Deliver us from the violence of greed and privilege. Grant us the desire, and the will, to live simply so others may have their just share of Earth’s resources. Almost every state, 48 in total, has at least one law restricting behaviors that prohibit or restrict conduct of people experiencing homelessness. 

  • 24 states have laws restricting loitering, loafing and vagrancy in particular public places,
  • 4 states have laws restricting lodging, living, or sleeping in vehicles,
  • 16 states have laws restricting loitering, loafing and vagrancy state-wide, and
  • 15 states have laws restricting camping in particular public places.

Deliver us from the silence that gives consent to abuse, war and evil. Grant us the desire, and the courage, to risk speaking and acting for the common good. A Supreme Court decision regarding the City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson, expected by the end of June, will determine if cities can implement laws that punish people for sleeping outside when there are no shelter options – even if sleeping in a parked car. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed a legal brief opposing the ban, and Catholic Charities USA and several Catholic service agencies signed on to a brief in opposition.

More of this is cropping up. In the past two years — Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, and Florida — have passed statewide camping bans on public property. 

Deliver us from the violence of irreverence, exploitation and control. Grant us the desire, and the strength, to act responsibly within the cycle of creation. Renters often find themselves in a dispute with landlords to fix much-needed repairs in their residences. About a quarter of the States allow renters to put their rent into an escrow account until the repairs are complete. Other States do allow unilateral withholding of rent until repairs are complete.

Only five states have no statute to withhold rent. For example, the recent attempt to allow Indiana renters to put rent payments into escrow failed. The Indianapolis Star reported that Indiana State lawmakers even passed a law prohibiting local governments from regulating certain aspects of landlord-tenant relationships after Indianapolis tried to institute a city ordinance to provide renters with more rights. Renters cannot even pay for the repairs themselves and deduct the cost of repairs from the next rent payment. 

God of love, mercy and justice, acknowledging our complicity in those attitudes, actions and words which perpetuate violence, we beg the grace of a non-violent heart.

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Sister Barbara Battista

Sister Barbara Battista

Sister Barbara Battista is a native of Indianapolis who currently ministers as the Congregation's Justice Promoter. She credits her social justice activism to her mother Alice's strong example. Raised in a large and extended Italian family household, Sister Barbara comes by community organizing quite naturally. She is a passionate and energetic advocate for full equity and equality for women and girls in church and society.

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