“The science of charity reform is not transmitted through books and at assemblies' tribunes as much as by climbing stairs in the home of the poor, kneeling at his bed, suffering from the same cold as he does, and discovering the secret of a grief- stricken heart in the course of a friendly conversation. When we have accomplished this ministry, not for months, but over long years; when we have thus studied the poor at home, at school, at the hospital, not only in one city but in several, and also in the country, in whatever condition God placed him, then we can start to know the formidable problem of misery, then we are entitled to propose serious measures...”
~ Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, 1848
Blessed Frédéric Ozanam understood that only when we spent time with those living in poverty, getting to know them and the problems with which they lived on a daily basis, could we effectively advocate for them and with them to change the laws and structures that keep those we serve in poverty.
Our approach is to help others see our clients as we do—the face of Jesus among us. Ultimately, we are reminding others of the words from the Gospel of Matthew: “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
We accomplish this by telling the stories of the people we see. Certainly, we are not trying to sensationalize our clients. Nor do we intend to disclose any personal information or details that are told to us in confidence.
Voice of the Poor is our opportunity to put a face to the statistics we all hear about every day. That ability, to talk about those in need as real people, not just numbers, makes us unique among all charities and service organizations. We are one of the few organizations that is invited into the homes of those in need. We listen to their stories and try to offer whatever comfort and solace that we can. Sometimes, that includes money. Always, it includes compassion. Those frequent encounters with people in times of trouble give us a unique view of the tipping points of poverty.
* taken from Voice of the Poor Advocacy Guide
Before you contact your legislators
Learn more about the issues being faced by the people served by St. Vincent de Paul in your area. Whether they are struggling from a lack of affordable housing, hunger, or under the weight of predatory loans, you will be more effective in your advocacy when you understand the issues. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides position papers as a way to get started. Contact your Voice of the Poor representative at the Council and/or National level if you need help learning more about an issue.
Be sure to review the Voice of the Poor Advocacy Guide for tips on how to work with elected officials, tips to use for telephoning, visiting, writing and emailing your representatives. Additional information about planning for a visit, following up with a visit, and inviting your member of Congress to visit is also included.
Columbus Diocesan Council VOP Representative: Danielle Gray (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Contacting your Legislators
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul subscribes to Voter Voice, an online advocacy program that allows users to send advocacy messages and alerts to supporters or members through email alerts. It also allows for messages to be sent to key legislators at the state and national levels. SVdP composes basic messages that can be personalized and sent to legislators who represent you. These messages can also be printed to be mailed to your legislators. When you sign up for a Voter Voice account and insert your zip code, you will automatically be connected to your U.S. senators and representatives. Voter Voice is very easy to use and makes connecting with your legislators easy!