I have been in Tucson for since Tuesday. As part of my sabbatical leave, I wanted to spend some time working with the poor. Like most clergy, I spent a lot of time talking about serving the poor, but don't actually do much of it. I considered a number of ways to do this--go to a third world country, etc, but finally decided to do something in Arizona. I meet a Franciscan friar, Br David Buer, from Tucson at the Desert House of Prayer last year who told me about Poverello House, a "respite house" for homeless men that he helped to get started.
Since PH doesn't have a place to stay (except for the manager), I am living while here at Casa Mariposa, an intentional faith community consisting of mostly young people interested in spirituality and peace and justice issues. There are about 8 of them living in former railway worker barracks right in Old Tucson. It was begun by our youngest Episcopal Vicar in Arizona, the Rev. Kate Bradsen and her partner Carol. They take in guests like me as well as people who have been released from detention or who are seeking political asylum.
The work at PH has gone well. Each day, ten men come by reservation from 8-4. The house is small and can only handle that many. They have breakfast, do laundry, take showers, and relax in the air conditioning, we also serve lunch (usually provided by a local eatery) as well as a sack lunch for dinner. The day is spent reading, watching tv, or rolling cigarettes and smoking outside. I help in whatever way I can--I have washed more dishes in a few days than I think I have in my whole life put together! I also do laundry and clean toilets, do a little help with cooking, and of course just chat with the "clients." Each one has an interesting story to tell.
My time with the Casa Mariposa folks has been great too. In so many simple ways they are living out their faith by their simple lifestyle and passion for the forgotten people of Tucson. As good as the food has been here (vegan mostly), I am going to treat them all to dinner tonight, they deserve it!