Dorothy Day has died. However, her spirit is alive and well; its presence was recently felt in Houston. The Houston Catholic Worker has opened its doors. Her work goes on, maybe not in the perfect spirit of the New York Catholic Worker, but hopefully in the same spirit.
She no longer writes her column, “On Pilgrimage” but her pilgrimage goes on because of the rich legacy she has left us.
We have been discovered! It seems as if all the agencies and churches of Houston waited until one day in April to make referrals.
First, there was a north side parish who referred a woman whose husband was seriously ill. They had received a cut-off notice from the gas company. We visited the home in the afternoon to arrange for the continuation of her gas and to see if we could help in other ways.
Our next call concerned a man who was blinded in an accident last October. Having been referred by Ben Taub county hospital, he was accompanied by his extended family. No other agency would give him assistance. We helped with the rent and arranged for groceries. We hope to find a training program somewhere for him that will accept him even though he doesn’t have the “papers” he needs.
The Ripley House County social worker referred our next case to us; a woman with three small children. When she arrived she said that she had been told that she would not receive help unless she would agree to be turned into the Immigration and Naturalization service. We assumed that her landlord had told her this. We were wrong. We took the woman back to Ripley House hoping that the agency would share some of the costs of keeping this family together until they could get back on their feet. We listened, stunned as the social worker told us that she could not help unless she reported that woman to the INS. She even showed us the form that she uses to send to the INS for reporting aliens.
We hurriedly left, taking that document with us as a reminder as to why Casa Juan Diego opened its doors. In a sense, this document is our charter as our “raison d’etre” to help those rejected by agencies.
We helped the person with rent and utilities and then accompanied her home. More cases came in during the course of the afternoon; people needing help with rent, food, employment, clothes, and medical problems. Hundreds of dollars were needed.
Our only expenses are rent and electricity. There are no salaries. All is shared with the poor. Casa Juan Diego does not receive government support. It depends entirely on voluntary contributions.
If you wish to help we are located at 4309 Washington Ave., Houston, TX 77007 [not current address]. PO Box 70113, Houston, TX 77270.
Houston Catholic Worker, May 5, 1981