Once upon a time, on a cold winter night, a few high school students set out in a van with some left over food and hot chocolate. They went into the streets of Cleveland and gave the food away to the homeless people they saw sleeping on the streets, alleys, and sidewalks. They enjoyed the company they encountered on the streets so much they went out the next Sunday; and continued to go out every Sunday since then.
The high school is Saint Ignatius High School, and their weekly actions on Sunday night have evolved into what is known as the Labre Project. The name comes for Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, the patron saint of homeless people. The Labre Project was brought to John Carroll University by a group of Ignatius alumni in 2004. The project has continued since 2004 and is still growing on campus.
What makes Labre special is our purpose. The purpose of Labre is not to feed the homeless, but to offer them friendship. It is through the meal we bring that we build friendship with those we encounter every Friday night.
All are welcome to come with us on a Friday night, see the Sign-Up page for more details.
Saint Benedict Joseph Labre is the patron saint of homeless people. He was born March 26, 1748, into a well-off middle class family with numerous opportunities. He was educated in his native village in France.
As the years went by, he grew distaste for any form of knowledge which did not help him to grow closer to God. After experimenting with several rigorous ways of religious life, he reportedly had an internal illumination. He then believed that God was calling him to a life of devotion “not in a wilderness or cloister but in the midst of the world.”
He abandoned his materialistic upbringing and set forth on a pilgrimage in an old coat with a rosary around his neck and a rosary between his fingers. He lived a live of poverty, sleeping on the streets and eating simple meals from charity or taken from the garbage. Many hours of his life were spent in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
He collapsed on the steps of the church of Santa Maria dei Monti in Rome from the exhaustion of living for 13 years in absolute poverty; and died later that day on April 16, 1783 – also his feast day.
While Cuyahoga County has lost 444 beds of shelter over the last decade, we have seen an increase in Permanent Supportive Housing to 781 units. We have seen steady decrease in the number of veterans and the number of long-term homeless living in Cleveland. Yet, every shelter in the city is full to capacity every night and running an overflow and The Public Housing waiting list has surpassed 21,000 people with only 9,000 units in their inventory.
The number of people sleeping downtown and on the west side has seen another increase over the last year. Furthermore, we have seen an increase in pregnant women without shelter and every couple of weeks we find a family living in a place not fit for human habitation. At one point, we had four pregnant women living outside without shelter and before entering the shelter system, 515 people reported staying in a dangerous place not suitable for human habitation in 2017.
- In 2017, the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimated that a single individual in Cuyahoga County must make $15/hour for 40 hours/week in order to afford a two bedroom apartment. These renters still have to work 55 hours/week to afford a one-bedroom apartment unit. And nowhere in the United States does welfare or disability assistance provide enough income for an individual to afford an apartment without subsidization.
- The minimum wage in Cuyahoga County as of 2017 is $8.30/hour. That means a single mom would have to work at least two minimum wage jobs to provide for her children.
- NEOCH estimates that around 55,000 people were in need of subsidized affordable housing in Greater Cleveland in 2017
- There were 4,291 adults and 1,389 children who were screened at the Coordinated Intake Center in 2017.
Every Friday, students meet in the Green Road Annex at 3 p.m. to prepare food for the evening. We cook a meal for around 80 people which will be distributed throughout the course of the night. After the preparation of the food, we have a reflection at the Rodman Chapel at 5 p.m., to prepare our minds and souls for the night. If students are unable to help cook, they are invited to join the Labre Project at 5 p.m. to begin their evening. We return to campus around 11 p.m. and have a remembrance of those we met that night.
Click here to see our Labre photos!
To make a donation of funds, food, or clothing to Labre, please contact: email@example.com
Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, you gave up honor, money, and home for love of Jesus. Help us to set our hearts on Jesus and not on the things of this world. You lived in obscurity among the poor in the streets. Enable us to see Jesus in our poor brothers and sisters and not judge by appearances. Make us realize that in helping them we are helping Jesus. Show us how to befriend them and not pass them by.
Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, you had a great love for prayer. Obtain for us the grace of persevering prayer, especially adoration of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, poor in the eyes of men but rich in the eyes of God, pray for us. Amen
-The Labre Prayer