A Catholic “Mobile Mercy Shelter” celebrated its first anniversary in service to the poor and homeless in the city of Concepción, Chile.
The modified bus is an outreach of the Archdiocese of Concepción. Various organizations contributed to the effort from the design of the bus to its completely remodeled interior.
When launched in 2017, Archbishop Fernando Chomali told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency, that “there are a lot of needy people, that's true, but there are also a lot of people that want to help, who don't want to be idle bystanders in life, but rather make a real commitment to those most in need.”
“The ideal would be that there would be no more need for this, that everyone would have a family where they could live in dignity, but unfortunately this has not happened yet, and so we have to assume our responsibility to work together in the name of Christ,” he said.
Volunteers receive training in tasks which “help Jesus through these people,” according to project coordinator Gustave de Pennart. Four volunteers are required per night, and include a social worker and a nurse's aid.
The bus is usually stationed in Concepción's main square and operates overnight Monday through Saturday. It has four beds, two bathrooms with showers, and offers food and clothing. It also has solar panels to light the bus at night.
To celebrate the May 15 anniversary, volunteers organized a dinner with the people that benefit from the mobile shelter. The event took place in front of Concepción's cathedral, where attendees had a meal, sang “Happy Birthday mobile shelter!” and shared a cake.
So far the mobile shelter has provided 650 overnight stays and served more than 5,000 street people who for various reasons do not want to go to the traditional shelters.
This winter, the mobile shelter added flu shots to its services.
Although there are mobile showers in the United States, and Spain has mobile barber shops, organizers believe the “Mobile Mercy Shelter” is the first of its kind in the world. The project has received the formal blessing of Pope Francis.
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.