Charles, along with others, was waiting for a van that Catholic Charities owns to pick him up and go to a shelter. Standing on the sidewalk in front of Washington D.C.’s Catholic Charities, the Louisiana native spoke to ZENIT about his difficult life journey and how Catholic Charities and Pope Francis have given him reason to consider himself “so blessed.”
“I’ll be graced by Pope Francis’ touch,” says Charles, who explains he will meet the Holy Father when Pope Francis visits Washington’s poor and homeless outside Catholic Charities in Washington D.C., on Thursday.
Catholic Charities provides more than 120,000 people from around Washington with various services, including housing, medical and dental care, and meals. They help provide some 1,800 beds a night and 4 million meals a year.
“If you have a problem or situation, this is the place,” Charles said when speaking about the charitable entity, adding, “There is no such thing as ‘no’ here.”
Speaking about Catholic Charities’ activities, he shared how every Wednesday, the poor are fed outside through a program called St. Maria’s Meals, in which a van provides food to the hungry. He highlighted that the organization doesn’t just serve Catholics, but everybody.
Lamenting how many women and children in the area have been battered and are in need of protection and care, the man said that Catholic Charities does what it can to protect them.
“Once they get here, they know they’re safe,” he said. He told ZENIT this has great value for those who have lost jobs, have broken homes, and may even have severe mental illnesses or other medical issues.
The homeless man went on to speak about the camaraderie among those who receive the services. “There is no negativity here,” he said, highlighting how this charity in particular helps in ways others don’t. “I have made close friends here,” he said, “and like the charity watches out for us, we watch out for each other.”
“I am grateful,” he added.
“No one is dissatisfied,” he said. “I would say 90% of Washingtonians know of Catholic Charities, of this building. You could be bone naked, in a terrible state, and they won’t turn you away.”
After Hurricane Katrina, Charles shared that he was without a home and “in a really unbearable situation.” However, Catholic Charities helped him. He told ZENIT he can’t go home yet, but once he gets assigned one, he’ll be able to reunite with his family.
At this point, he told us, “I am a grandpa, and I can’t wait to see my grandchildren.”
When asked about Pope Francis, he said,”I love him. I am astounded by him.”
During the Pope’s meeting on Thursday with the poor, the homeless man explained, His Holiness will be greeted by a homeless woman who will read for the Pontiff a poem she wrote him. “My buddies who signed up on the list with me to see the Pope,” he said, “can’t wait. We can’t believe that we’ll be so much closer to him than those at the National Basilica.”
Even those who won’t see Francis, Charles pointed out, are just happy and elated to know he is coming here and will be in our own backyard.
Thanks to the love Pope Francis shows us, he said, “We don’t feel depressed like we did before, but more at peace and more prayerful.”
“I can’t ask for anything more. I am so blessed,” Charles concluded.