Now that the Christmas decorations have been stored for another year and presents placed away too, it is worth remembering how some recently given gifts keep on giving. The coats and hats from clothing drives, the toiletries and supplies through parish-based giving tree programs and the casseroles given to food cupboards since Thanksgiving are making a substantial difference for homeless people or those only a missed paycheck away from homelessness this winter.

All year long archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS) provides the gift of dignity to people struggling to find or keep a roof over their heads all year long. From day and evening programs for homeless men at St. John’s Hospice to services for homeless women at Mercy Hospice and Women of Hope’s two houses, among other programs, CSS serves 575 men, women and children in the city on any given day. It also helps poor families with clothing, food and other needs at facilities in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. {{more}}

The Archdiocese’s efforts are a significant part of the outreach by many other religious and civic groups especially in the areas hardest hit by the twin evils of poverty and addiction. One of these is Kensington, one of Philadelphia’s oldest yet most troubled areas. It has made the news in recent months as the place where a strangler remains on the loose, preying on women in the neighborhood.

As our page three feature this week points out, it’s also a place whose proud residents and partners battle its social problems with courage and life-giving solutions. Covenant House will complete its new transitional housing facility in Kensington this spring. It joins Catholic Social Services’ Visitation Homes facility, which has been transitioning women with children off the neighborhood’s streets and into permanent housing since 2004.

The generosity that Catholics in the Archdiocese display around the holidays is multiplied many times over through their annual Catholic Charities Appeal donations, which support CSS’s work throughout the year. Those monetary gifts support the system that extends compassionate care to our brothers and sisters throughout the region.

They combine with the physical gifts of clothing or food to represent expressions of love for people we may never meet, living in neighborhoods we might never visit. Though the problem of homelessness stubbornly persists despite the hard work and outreach of thousands of Catholics and others, those efforts cannot fail to cause observers of social outreach in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to speak as the ancient Romans did of the early Christians: “See how they love one another.”