October 5, 2009 is World Habitat Day - a day of observance and awareness for the more than 100 million people in the world that are homeless. Designated by the United Nations, the purpose of World Habitat Day is to "reaffirm that adequate housing is a basic human right," as well as the responsibility of all of us to ensure adequate and affordable housing to all people.
World Habitat Day is a day when all people are encouraged to either educate, advocate, or join their community in the battle against homelessness. You can find links to events in your area here.
The event is spear-headed by Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that works to bring affordable and adequate housing to people all around the world. By encouraging the involvement of the community to help build homes for their neighbors, as well as encouraging Habitat home owners to help in the building of new homes, this ecumenical organization has built over 300,000 homes across the world.
When I was asked to help promote World Habitat Day as a way for people to educate themselves about homelessness and poverty, I immediately agreed. In Kansas, we had the opportunity to work with Habitat not only in a fund-raising project, but also working on two homes in Hayes, KS. And while I might not be able to swing a hammer properly, the reality of Habitat's work for the homeless was undeniable.
One of my greatest reflections when working with Habitat was their tradition of writing Scripture on the baseboards of the house. As a way of connecting faith with the people that would eventually live in the homes, Habitat encourages people to scribe Biblical passages on support beams and frames. While they may be covered up by siding or dry-wall, the reality and power of the Word remains. I remember writing the words of the Magnificat, recognizing the significance of what we were doing as builders as well as future friars:
The Almighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
His mercy is from age to age
on those who fear Him.
So I encourage all of you to visit the site for World Habitat Day and see what you can do to get involved. Sometimes the greatest act of charity is just to acknowledge the struggles of the poor in this world. I'd encourage everyone to at least look at the statistics, and then consider what can we can do as Gospel people to be present to the needs of the poor.
"Charity is love received and given." -Caritas in Veritate