Homeless center closes
High volunteer turnover spurs temporary halt to rethink goals
CHAMPAIGN — The St. Jude Catholic Worker House at 317 S. Randolph St. has closed temporarily to rethink its goals and future direction.
The organization is continuing to house a volunteer and resident (or residents) but isn't open as a drop-in center for guests to do such things as take showers and do laundry, according to Leigh Estabrook, a board member of Christian Social Action Forum.
Estabrook declined to say if a family or individual is still at the house to protect the privacy of that person or persons.
The Christian Social Action Forum owns the property and has some oversight responsibility for the organization, Estabrook said.
She said the Christian Social Action Forum has asked the Catholic Worker House to take a respite to stabilize its volunteer community and re-examine the practice of Catholic Worker principles to determine how they can best be carried out in the community.
"It's indefinite, though our intention is to reopen as soon as possible," she said.
One issue to address is an unstable volunteer work group, she said.
There are more than 120 Catholic Worker House locations in the United States, and the more stable ones have core volunteers involved for a long time, she said.
Volunteers in Champaign have tended to be young, and there has been a high turnover, Estabrook said.
"The amount of turnover has made it a little unstable that way," she added.
The local Catholic Worker House also needs to take another look at how it can best serve the community and work with other local organizations as changes have taken place among other service providers, such as the recent opening nearby of C-U at Home's new daytime drop-in center for the homeless, Estabrook said.
"It's not a yes-or-no thing," she added. "It's a question as to how do we, as a people who believe in the obligation and commitment to the poor, as individuals and as well as the Catholic Worker movement, how do we live out that life?"
Fellow board member the Rev. Tom Royer called the temporary closing a "stepping back" to re-examine goals.
But, he also said, "I should think we see ourselves functioning again."
The Catholic Worker movement, which marked its 80th year in 2013, is committed to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry and forsaken, according to its website.