“Always be grateful.” St. Paul the Disciple
The Catholic Worker House in Redwood City began in 1974. At our home for troubled teens we try to make sense out of everyday life and the Gospels. No one is paid to work here, and no one is charged anything to stay here. Following the example of Jesus, St. Francis, Dorothy Day and others, we have tried to share our lives and love with the poor because we are all sisters and brothers in the family of God. With God’s grace and the generosity of many, many supporters, we live like kings and have become a bridge between the needs of the very poor and the phenomenal wealth of the community surrounding us.
Hundreds of teens have lived with us. Many have come from jails, hospitals, and families who are falling apart. For example, years ago Al came to us from Juvenile Jail. He couldn’t go home because his mom had committed suicide in front of him and his father (a raging alcoholic) did not want to live with a thief. While living with us, Al had a complete emotional breakdown. After 3 months in a psych unit, he returned to us, his only functional family. He continued to live with us through high school, moved in with one of our supporters for a year, and then got his own apartment. We furnished that apartment (with gifts from you our supporters), taught him to drive, gave him a car, and loved him until he died of AIDS at age 30.
A few of our teens have arrived from other countries which just proves how small earth has become and how big God’s family has always been. However, the vast majority of our teens are from San Mateo County and many, many have undiagnosed drug and alcohol addictions. The children who live with us come from rich and poor, working and unemployed parents. They are black, white, brown and homeless. All teens who are homeless are DESTITUTE!!! Because the emotional, economic, educational, and personal needs of our teens are so great, we only work with three or four at a time. We need professionals to volunteer to work with and employ our teens. Our goal at the Catholic Worker is to establish a safe and sane family. We have dinner together and do homework together. Together we celebrate birthdays, holidays and accomplishments, like getting a driver’s license. In our home we have a lot of come-union. The truth is LOVE WORKS. The teens stay with us from 6 months to a few years until they are able to go to college, live in their own apartment, or move on safely.
Forty-one years ago, our biggest bill was food. We now receive over 10,000 pounds of free, fresh vegetables each week, which is distributed to the poor. We also pick up and distribute clothing, socks, sleeping bags, furniture, bikes, backpacks and cars to the poor.
Over 24 years ago, a few women began the Catholic Worker Language School. These women touched a tender nerve in the lives of the poor. Fifteen volunteer teachers teach English to over 55 women. Another 12 tutors work with about 20 children doing weekly homework. Learning a language empowers the poor and gives them choices. This is one way to help the Word become flesh.
A few years back we began an outreach to Day Laborers. These men are able bodied, hard working, and often unable to find work. They stand, for hours, on our street corners hoping to be picked up for gardening, painting, hauling, or more skilled work (carpentry, plumbing, electrical). We now have two residences that house 12 of our brothers as they struggle to make money to send home to their families south of our borders. If you wish to hire a Day Laborer, you can do so by calling Cesar or Ramon at (650) 339-2794.
In typical Catholic Worker fashion, we view our society through the eyes of the poor, and we see a different society than many others. No matter what some may claim, it is clear that money is the number one value in the USA and people are not. We live and work with those who are the victims of a society gone mad. How can we continue to squander our scientific genius and other resources inventing, building, and stockpiling nuclear weapons when our sisters and brothers need food, clothing, shelter, education, rehab centers and other basic necessities? At the Catholic Worker our lives are often symbolic actions. We gather for Mass as a sign of unity in a broken world. We periodically nonviolently resist the existence of nuclear weapons, war, and the military industrial complex. We have spent some time in jail and know jail is a great place to find Christ. We know that our homes for at-risk teens and day laborers are only a drop in the bucket because our County has hundreds of homeless. We try to be a symbol of a world in which people are the number one priority and not money. After 41 years of trying to follow Christ by living and working with the poor we know it’s been an honor. If you want to help us help, call 650-366-4415.
Larry Purcell, Ronnie Georges, Sr. Mary Jane Floyd, Aida Figueroa,
Jan Johanson, J. Arthur White, Paul Padovano and Susan Crane.