Society of Saint Vincent de Paul helps homeless community

Courtesy of Saint Vincent de Paul Society | Saint Vincent de Paul members, left to right, Bethany Smith, Ella Milback and Shania Appadoo prepare special meals for their homeless friends Downtown.

By Emma Polen | features editor

While the “season of giving” is wrapping up, the new year brings plenty of opportunities to participate in meaningful community service at Duquesne.

Among the on-campus organizations that serve the community, Duquesne’s chapter of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society is starting the new year off by reaching out to the homeless and impoverished populations in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Saint Vincent de Paul is a non-profit Catholic ministry that functions nationwide. Founded in the early 1800s, Saint Vincent de Paul has a long tradition of ministering directly to those who are marginalized.

Duquesne’s chapter of Saint Vincent de Paul occupies a unique position within the larger network of mission work within the city. Kate Rosello and Ella Milback, student co-presidents here at Duquesne, and Lindsey Harvey, treasurer, share how the campus reaches those in need. 

According to Rosello, what sets Duquesne apart is that their service is entirely mobile. Those in need are not obligated to come to a designated location. 

Harvey said their chapter of Saint Vincent de Paul society comes directly to them: “We are one of the few Saint Vincent de Paul Diocese of Pittsburgh chapters that provides clothing, toiletries, food, and other necessities directly to people on the streets or in homeless shelters.”

Milback adds, “Duquesne’s Saint Vincent de Paul Society also functions uniquely as a ministry that reaches out with two hands – one to the homeless individuals we meet Downtown, and one to students, many of whom have never had the opportunity to interact meaningfully with individuals suffering from homelessness.”

Part of Duquesne’s Saint Vincent de Paul’s mission is directed toward students here on campus, asking for involvement in return for gratifying volunteer experience. 

Eric Swain Jr., a junior sports marketing major, reflects on how the Saint Vincent de Paul society has impacted him. 

“It’s also great talking to people who are less fortunate than you because it humbles you,” Swain said. “Saint Vincent de Paul does a great job of making sure that the outcasted and rejected are served in Downtown Pittsburgh. They do a great job by giving the homeless their space and giving them supplies for the next few days.”

Swain encourages other students to join: “This ministry will allow you to get out of your comfort zone as it does allow you to be more mindful…it is a great opportunity to meet other students and also serve your community.”

Harvey agrees that the student population that participates in Saint Vincent de Paul’s weekly outreach are better equipped to have understanding for a variety of people. 

“I think our specific chapter shows young people the homeless are not to be looked down upon or feared,” she said. “Saint Vincent de Paul opens the minds of college students to see the homeless as people first – people who deserve to be acknowledged, listened to, and treated with dignity.”

Students, faculty and alumni are all welcome to get involved with Saint Vincent de Paul. The student-led group meets in Laval House every Sunday at 7:45 p.m., and then sets off into designated locations throughout the nearby Downtown areas. 

Rosello and Milback assure the Duquesne community that involvement in Saint Vincent de Paul is not limited to their weekly trips. “Students and faculty can donate items and supplies via the basket outside of the chapel doors in Old Main, and/or email for specific supplies we are in most need of,” Rosello said. 

The most common items that the society is always in short supply of include socks, underwear, t-shirts (L and XL) and blankets. 

“Baked goods are also deeply appreciated and provide a special surprise for our friends,” Rosello said. “We also put on various campus outreach events throughout the year to educate ourselves and others on issues of homelessness, hunger and poverty and to help the greater Duquesne community engage in our mission of alleviating poverty through love.”

“Our hope is that our members will leave Duquesne with eyes opened to the presence of poverty in their communities, and hearts moved to compassion and meaningful action,” Milback said.

Rosello, from joining Saint Vincent de Paul as a general member to becoming an officer, recalled how the society changed her life. 

“Saint Vincent de Paul blessed me with the opportunity to grow more deeply in faith and learn how to better love people around me,” she said. “God still reveals so much to me through not only the people we all serve, but also through every officer and member of Saint Vincent DePaul that I get to serve alongside.”

Students who want to begin the new year with charitable service can join them on campus link or reach out directly to receive emails. These emails function as a way to keep members updated on needed prayers and supplies. 

In addition, students can follow Saint Vincent de Paul Society on Instagram (@duqsvdp) as they spread kindness and love to the marginalized in the Pittsburgh community.