O'Day believes that housing homeless youth is not enough, but that they also need to be connected to a support person. That is ideally a relative of the youth. But if the situation is not ideal or there is no relative, a coach, teacher, former Boy Scout leader, or former neighbor can be a stabilizing figure.
"If we're only finding kids a place to put their baggage, to put their clothes, their pictures of former loved ones, if that's all we're doing, I don't think it works," said O'Day. "We have to be able to find a way to make that connection."
Testimony from Fall River Catholic Social Services (CSS) in support of the bill states that homeless youth have not gotten to the point of being chronically homeless, but they will need specific services to prevent them from doing so. They call for emergency beds especially geared for youth.
"The co-mingling of youth with chronically homeless men can be overwhelming and terrifying and the youth can become targets of the older men who present themselves as 'being helpful'" stated CSS.
Testimony from the MCC includes a reference to Pope Benedict's 2005 encyclical "God is Love" and the February statement of Massachusetts Catholic Bishops called "Standing in Solidarity with All." Both references point to helping neighbors in need.
O'Day expects the bill to get a favorable report out of the committee and then possibly be divided into two parts: the allocation of the funds, and the establishment of the commission. Though Catholic groups are not mentioned in the commission at this point, they could be included.
For Kathryn Davis, the bill has a personal resonance. Davis and her husband John, parishioners of St. Joseph's Parish in Attleboro, recently took in a pregnant homeless teenager while another support program was secured for her.
Davis said that the bill should also connect with all people, especially Catholics.
"It's just our calling to help people to spread the Gospels through actions more than words, supporting someone in need, particularly homeless young persons. I think, what Christ would do?" said Davis.
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