The Ecumenical Outreach Partnership is a collaboration among three midtown congregations. By working together, we are able to increase the level of support we provide to men and women experiencing homelessness and others in need of social services.
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Saint Thomas Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral created the Ecumenical Outreach Partnership in June 2017. This innovative partnership is led by John Sheehan, LMSW, who pursues street outreach and serves walk-in clients and individuals referred by Saint Thomas and St. Patrick’s from his office at Fifth Avenue.
“Knowing there are no quick fixes in this work, we try to establish a relationship with a client based on trust and mutual respect,” John says. “We follow the guiding principles of trauma-informed care, the first one being that people must feel safe, both physically and psychologically. So we offer them a cup of coffee. We provide toiletries, clothes, shoes, bottled water and other essentials that most of us take for granted. These supplies are donated by members of the three churches.”
In addition to the three founding congregations, the Ecumenical Outreach Partnership has received generous support from the John and Polly Sparks Foundation and the Hallock Family Foundation.
In 2020, the Ecumenical Outreach Partnership received a substantial grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation that will enable the program to hire additional staff, increase vital services, and enhance business operations, governance and administrative support. Among the immediate staffing changes were the addition of Seamus Campbell as director of Homeless Ministries and the expansion of Robbie Sherman’s role from part-time administrative support to a full-time case manager. Seamus previously was director of Outreach Ministries for Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. In his new position, he will create a chaplaincy program to provide pastoral care for our clients.
John and his staff work with local agencies that serve the homeless—such as the Institute for Family Health, Catholic Charities, the Bowery Mission and many others—to help clients access medical care, obtain Social Security and veterans’ benefits, secure transitional housing, prepare for job interviews and more.
In the program’s first three years, John and his staff served more than 580 clients who came through the doors of the church and made contact with another 1,000 or more men and women on the streets. The majority of our clients are male (63%), over age 50 (66%) and unhoused (68%). Our clients are 41% white, 38% black, 16% Latinx and 5% Asian.
We are grateful for the prayers, encouragement and financial contributions of all who support this life-saving ministry.