What motivated you to work with the homeless?
“It comes from the Gospel teaching to care for the poor, the strangers that come to your city. You don’t leave them without a place to be. That has been a part of my life for a long time.”
“My parents took people in a lot and that also paved the way. At one point I had eight people living with me who I just kind of gathered from the streets as a personal effort.”
“Then there are a couple of incidents that stand out. On an 8th Grade school trip to New York City, I saw a guy sleeping on a bench near the United Nations building with all his belongings. That image stuck with me for many years.”
“Another time, at a mall in Pennsylvania, there was a little girl about six years old, all alone. I talked with her, bought her food and asked, “Where’s your Mommy?” She said, “Well, Mommy doesn’t have a place so she can’t take care of me anymore.” It was heartbreaking.”
“Some years later, I lived next to the Rescue Mission’s Executive Director. He took me over to the Mission one night. He said, “These are people who have no place to live and I just take care of them. I find places for them to be and I try to give them hope.”
“Beyond the fundamentals — food, shelter, clothing and encouraging words, we work with other agencies with expertise in say, Psychiatry or Drug and Alcohol Dependence or Counseling.”
Bill Southrey is President and CEO of HAVEN / Beat the Street Ministry, Inc., an arm of The Haven of Hope in Atlantic County. They recently received an award for Humanitarian of the Year (2014) from the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation.