From the very beginning and throughout the Society’s 184+ years of existence around the world, home visitations have been at the core and heart of the work of Vincentians (lay members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul). Although Frédéric Ozanam, our founder, was open to all forms of charities and the Society has responded to new and changing needs by establishing Special Works, home visitations continue to be the way that most Vincentians choose to make person-to-person contact with those in need.
Home visitations have the following characteristics:
They are made by a pair of Vincentians to the home of a person seeking assistance from the Society.
Generally, the call for assistance will be directed to the Society’s phone number or to the parish office of the Catholic church in its service area.
Although the Society is a Catholic organization, we visit and serve anyone requesting assistance, on a non-denominational basis, regardless of religious beliefs or affiliations.
People may call the Society for various types of assistance. Some may need a compassionate ear. Some may need some emergency assistance in the form of food vouchers or clothing. Others may need some information that will help them access appropriate services.
The past two decades have seen increasing disparity in economic levels in our society with the rich getting richer and the poor getting food banks, alienation, and indifference. Thus visitation remains an important Vincentian activity, and is the normal starting point of contact between the poor and Vincentians.
During visitations we carry a heavy burden, because we represent the Society. Just as we are there to gather information and assess need, we too are being assessed and judged for the sincerity of our intention and the authenticity of our faith. Our aim is to bring the healing presence and power of Christ. The following dispositions will help us carry out this sacred task.
Compassion and Understanding:
An essential part of this is a willingness to listen to those we visit. Resist the urge to judge or react in any way that wounds their dignity as human beings, or as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our attitude to those we visit will largely determine their attitude towards us. A smile and positive disposition will help them relax, lessen their embarrassment and assist them to be receptive to our guidance.
We must accept people as they really are, and have a sincere interest in people as individuals. We will not seek to change individuals, but seek to change the environments in which individuals find themselves. Acceptance means trying to understand the problem from the person’s point of view.
Encouragement: Although we may come across situations that, from human terms, seem hopeless, we know all things are possible. We should share this optimism in our visits and encourage them in their efforts to help themselves.
We should be available to those in need. We cannot always control when someone needs help; therefore, an essential part of a Vincentian attitude is the willingness to be disturbed. If a poor call is a genuine emergency, then an unnecessary delay will involve additional suffering. While there may be times that we simply cannot respond, we never put our convenience ahead of the needs of the poor. Availability also means that we go out to our visits to the poor in pairs. This has been the accepted wisdom in the Society since its founding, and for reasons of safety, security and propriety it makes more sense than ever today. As much as possible, the visitation team consist of a man and a woman.
In 1848, Ozanam wrote, “Above all, do not put down the poor. It is not appropriate to ask workers if they go out drinking, but whether their children go to school. Let us talk to them about their own interests, then their affections, and then their duties. Let us find in our own experience a good piece of advice in order to improve their poor accommodation. Let us be patient and wait for their questions and openings that will come if they find we are good and will listen to them.”
Our overarching role is to “help make a difference”.
Services: We provide Giant Tiger food vouchers based on the number of adults and children in the household. We can also provide Loaves & Fishes vouchers for free hot meals, in certain circumstances.
In addition, we can offer bus passes for those who are in need of local transportation assistance.