As we start the winter season when our focus switches to keeping people warm, we remember the founder of the Labre Project locally, Jim Skerl. The Plain Dealer did a nice job in remembering this amazing teacher from St. Ignatius High School with a series of articles including a nice piece by Terry Pluto.
West Side Catholic, which is right across the street from St. Ignatius, expressed their grief over the loss of Skerl:
Words cannot adequately express the community’s sadness over the loss of Jim Skerl , teacher at St. Ignatius. Mr. Skerl impacted so many in the community through his work with L’Arche and as the founder of the Saint Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless and the St. Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearers Society. His legacy lives on in the lives of those he touched – including mine.
We have to remember the revolutionary nature of the Labre Project. In a time of fear of everything and lawsuits, Jim was able to figure out a way for young energetic students to go outside to meet with those resistant to shelter where they live. He convinced concerned parents of the value of the program first as a way to deliver food to the streets, but the program quickly evolved into a way to build friends with those living outside. These young people first at Ignatius now at John Carroll and CWRU go out and deliver food, clothing and winter items to those often forgotten by society. With this extending a helping hand, they listen and hear from the population. The build a bond that extends after a person gets into housing. They provide the most powerful weapon against homelessness in listening and treating people with respect.
These students know what is happening on the streets of Cleveland. They know who is staying outside and they are often the first people homeless people meet when they move out of their housing. They can often link them to "professional" outreach workers at the agencies. These students are talking to these guys and treating them with compassion no matter their mistakes or human faults. The Labre Project helps move people to get off the streets. It keeps people safe while they are living without housing. Finally, it gives the students a lifelong desire to incorporate community service into their daily life. They graduate realizing that their volunteer efforts helped the community and they want to do more.
We will miss this quiet revolutionary from the near West Side of Cleveland.
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry