About Life Experience and Faith Sharing Associates
LEFSA was founded in 1986 by Sr. Dorothy Gallant, SC and Sr. Teresa Skehan, RSM in order to create faith communities with people who are homeless. LEFSA fills a critical void for those in the city shelter system and on the street, who are offered a cot and perhaps a meal without the spiritual support necessary for climbing out of severe poverty. Since then, LEFSA has touched over 3,000 lives annually and continues to expand its care and programs. LEFSA is a ministry and a community, made up of people who have been there—many of our team members were formerly homeless and have now devoted their lives to helping others.
The mission of Life Experience and Faith Sharing Associates is to:
- Extend the Reign of God by realizing and responding to our call to live as sisters and brothers with one another as responsible members of a global community;
- Make a discernible commitment to work for liberation with people who are oppressed;
- Stand in solidarity with people striving to create a more just society.
“Hopelessness leads to behaviors that include drug addiction, criminal behavior and situations that produce a never ending cycle of grief. Many homeless people suffer mental anguish and mental illness- magnified by the very real struggle to get affordable housing and rehabilitation. I have met people who have regained a sense of dignity, hope, personal responsibility–even though the cards are stacked against them.” – Vaughn
- To provide a time and space on a weekly basis where people who are homeless can come together to share their lived experience in the light of God’s word;
- To provide an empowerment model which helps to develop and/or restore a belief in the dignity and self-worth of each person;
- To provide those who attend the Base Christian Community gatherings, and those encountered within the shelters, with resource information and support toward making concrete steps to remove or lessen the personal, communal, and structural causes of homelessness;
- To be a caring church presence within the shelters, drop-in-centers, drug recovery program, HIV/AIDS transitional residence, and street ministry;
- To work together with people who are homeless, formerly homeless, and advocates to address the systems and structures that keep people oppressed and to work towards their transformation;
- To promote leadership among people who are homeless and formerly homeless by sponsoring monthly groups: Leadership Study Days, Women’s Empowerment Groups, and Men’s Spiritual Development Groups.
A Portrait of
Homelessness is often the result of a complex set of circumstances and a symptom of larger problems in society. Many are plunged into homelessness by forces beyond their control, including lack of affordable housing, unemployment, rape and domestic abuse, mental and/or physical illness, addiction, release from prison, or fire.
- 1 in 130 New Yorkers is homeless. Most of them suffer from mental illness or other severe health problems
- An average of around 60,000 people sleep in NYC shelters each night. 24,000 of them are children
- Over 3,000 more sleep in NYC streets, subways, and parks each night. They are exposed to temperatures as low as -15°F and as high as 106°F
Formerly homeless LEFSA team members speak out about what it’s like to be homeless.
“You feel all alone… like a stranger in your own land. It’s almost like you have no more voice.” – Deborah
“Being homeless was depressing. I was angry, ashamed and upset for being in that predicament. I had no relationship with God.” – Lucy
“Hopelessness leads to behaviors that include drug addiction, criminal behavior, and situations that produce a never-ending cycle of grief. Many homeless people suffer mental anguish and mental illness—magnified by the very real struggle to get affordable housing and rehabilitation.” – Vaughn
“Trapped… vulnerable to everybody and everything. This is a very lonely and isolated situation to be in.” – James