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 funds a full-time position for 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.”
John works 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. John also receives part-time staff support from the Rev. Moira Aherne, LCSW, research assistant; and Robbie Jones, administrative assistant.
In the program’s first two years, John and his staff served more than 350 clients who came through the doors of the church and made contact with another 1,000 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.
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. We have also launched a crowdfunding campaign to help us meet the ongoing costs (such as emergency housing, public transportation and basic necessities) of helping our neighbors survive on the city streets.
We are grateful for the prayers, encouragement and financial contributions of all who support this life-saving ministry.