MILWAUKEE — As a partner of the Milwaukee Common Council’s recently announced All Things in Common initiative, All Saints Catholic Church will soon be acting in tandem with other faith-based organizations and government entities to expedite direct services to residents in the central city.
All Saints pastor Fr. Bob Stiefvater said that while the interfaith initiative is new and the parish is still developing the specifics of its involvement, he is excited for the church’s ministries to be available to a wider demographic. All Saints has been identified by the Common Council as a “community resource hub” where individuals from a variety of backgrounds can easily access crucial services.
“My understanding is that the aldermen are really trying to see how we can work together to provide access points for services for people that normally can’t get around that much,” said Fr. Stiefvater in a phone interview with the Catholic Herald. “It seems to me kind of a shortcut for services, including services for the elderly, who don’t move out of their neighborhoods too much, people who are at risk for foreclosure, people who are searching for jobs, including teens.”
Fr. Stiefvater said he is also hopeful the residents of the area in which All Saints is located on Milwaukee’s northwest side will benefit from in-kind services of other All Things in Common partners, of which there are 25 churches representing a variety of denominations throughout the city.
“I do know that, as I walk around the neighborhood, we really could use some help, and the city’s resources are limited. I think that this is a real good way to do it,” he said. “I have been hoping to create some partnerships between All Saints and St. Martin de Porres and some of our surrounding non-Catholic churches. Many have some really good ministries that we could partner with and they would be able to take part in the ministries that we do well, which is our meal program and our pantry program.”
At an Aug. 10 City Hall press conference to announce the launch of the initiative, Alderwoman Chantia Lewis of District 9 said “the idea behind (the initiative) is not having to go across town … you can step out of your door and go around the corner and get the resources that you need.”
Alderwoman Lewis, one of the leaders of the program, said her intention in organizing the partnership was “mobilizing the churches, collectively, as a unit.”
“We all know that the church is the foundation in various communities,” she said. “(The question was) how can we pull that together and make it one big massive initiative that can tackle many issues in neighborhoods?”
At the press conference, Pastor Robert Randolph of Kingdom Faith Fellowship Church on Holton Avenue said the initiative creates “a really dynamic partnership.”
“All you have to do is turn on the television screen and you will see that there are so many issues that we are facing, not as blacks and whites and Hindus and Muslims but as a group of people within this city who believe in the city’s progress, who believe in the city’s history and who believe in the city’s future,” he said. “Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, rather than trying to reinvent a system that’s already in place … we simply reached out to (the churches), because we know they’re already doing good work, and simply asked how can the city partner with them to accomplish the mission that both of us share, hence the term, All Things in Common.”
The initiative was born out of the multi-pronged approach to improving public safety, announced by the Common Council in the beginning of June. Lewis said that the initiative will work by connecting liaisons from the churches with representatives from the city; churches will have their own volunteer teams.
“What we want to do is plug into the infrastructure that a lot of these pastors have been doing for generations,” said Common Council president Ashanti Hamilton. “We want to solidify that partnership and magnify it.”
In a press release, the Common Council said the resource hubs will provide direct services including group-based mentoring as well as referrals to city services and in-kind resources provided by philanthropic partners. Residents will also be able to get connected with critical services like driver’s license recovery and child support mediation.
The initiative will launch with a citywide block party on Saturday, Aug. 27 hosted at each of the 25 resources sites from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. During the block party, attendees will be offered chances to win free gas, groceries and bus passes, and volunteers from the various hubs will begin “asset mapmaking and needs-assessment” to identify what types of services are the most crucial to the specific neighborhoods.
Fr. Stiefvater said it is precisely those partnerships which harness the creativity and resources of a variety of community stakeholders that have the best chance of making effective change. He predicts the initiative will mean easier access to city services for the elderly and possibly job training and employment assistance for area youth, and hopes to get the young people of his parish involved.
“I see this as maybe a first step. We’re a decent-sized footprint that could really make a difference in the whole swathe of the city,” said Fr. Stiefvater, referring to the clustered parishes of All Saints, St. Martin de Porres, St. Michael and St. Rose.