Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Lives Converge at Church of the Street

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Lives Converge at Church of the Street

Article excerpt

It's snowbird season in Phoenix. With 300 sun-filled days a year, panoramic canyons and high mountain deserts, Arizona is the second fastest growing state. It is a natural magnet for snowbirds fleeing frigid temperatures. Two hundred and fifty-thousand visitors swell the metro population of 2.3 million the first quarter of every year. According to the local visitors' bureau, the typical visitor to the area is 42 years old, earns $60,800 a year and spends 4.5 days in the valley. Snowbirds may spend 4.5 months.

By these standards, Meryl Dawson and Crushing Rock are not typical visitors, but they are real snowbirds of the poorest sort who find their way to warmer climes during these biting months. In Phoenix, they come to one of several shelters and soup kitchens, like Andre House, sponsored by the Holy Cross Fathers and staffed by volunteers like Dave Devine.

Devine, 23, from Philadelphia, has taken leave of his teaching career for a year's ministry at Andre House, a house of hospitality in the Catholic Worker tradition that serves the multiple needs of the homeless and poor of central Phoenix.

"While there is a large base of regulars among the guests who pass through the Andre House dining rooms each evening, there is also a fluid number of transient guests, many of them snowbird arrivals who come into town by bus or having hitched a ride," Devine says. "We serve 600 to 900 persons on an average day in winter."

Twenty-six-year old Meryl and her infant son, Abe, are staying at a shelter a few blocks away after arriving in Phoenix a week ago from Wyoming. Between the hearty evening meal at Andre House and the breakfast and lunch provided by nearby St. Vincent de Paul mission, they are able to manage until Meryl can get her bearings and use the St. Joseph Job Placement services at Andre House. …

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