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City’s poor get place to be heard, St. Joseph's Place

City’s poor get place to be heard, St. Joseph's Place

There are agencies on Hamilton Hill that provide the poor with food, clothing and shelter, but there
City’s poor get place to be heard, St. Joseph's Place
St. Joseph's Place at 837 Albany St. opened its doors to the public Monday morning. The building was formerly the Schenectady Police Traffic Division headquarters.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

St. Joseph’s Place’s hours

—Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 9 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

—Tuesday: 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

There are agencies on Hamilton Hill that provide the poor with food, clothing and shelter, but there’s one need that often goes unmet — the need to be heard.

That’s what Sister Ann Christi Brink and Sister Linda Neil discovered when they interviewed human service agencies to find out what was lacking in the impoverished Schenectady community.

“Each of them said the same thing — they can give shelter, they can give other things, like food, but they don’t have time to listen to people’s stories,” Brink explained.

St. Joseph’s Place was established to fill that void.

Situated at 837 Albany St., next to the Schenectady Inner City Ministry Food Pantry, the new initiative provides a place where people can sit, talk, pray and feel safe.

The site was a vision of the late Rev. Michael Hogan, who most recently served as pastor at St. Joseph’s Church in Schenectady and St. Margaret of Cortona Church in Rotterdam Junction. Well-known for his service to the poor, he died Aug. 20.

According to Brink, Hogan strongly believed a Catholic presence was needed on Hamilton Hill — something that had been lacking since Sacred Heart–St. Columba Church closed in 2008.

Hogan would have turned 75 on Monday, so that date was chosen for the grand opening of St. Joseph’s Place, as a tribute to him.

The small, bright space is housed in a building owned by SICM. It includes a peaceful chapel with an altar and Bible stand from the seminary at St. Joseph’s Church.

The chapel was Hogan’s one specific wish, Brink said.

A second room is dominated by a large, round kitchen table — a nod to St. Joseph’s history.

“The first sisters [of St. Joseph] sat at a kitchen table and made lace. That was our first ministry,” Brink said.

A kitchen table also served as a gathering spot at Sacred Heart–St. Columba.

Quick start-up

St. Joseph’s Place came into being quickly. Brink and Neil began talking with Hogan about the idea in November.

“Father kind of swept me along with his enthusiasm for it,” Neil said. “He had this charisma that when he talked to you about an idea, it was like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ve gotta do this now.’ ”

The site will be staffed by Brink, Neil and other volunteers. They aren’t counselors, but can lend a sympathetic ear and guide visitors to an array of community resources as needed.

The initiative is sponsored by St. Joseph’s Church, but is open to everyone, regardless of religious beliefs.

Brink and Neil have both ministered in Schenectady and are familiar with Hamilton Hill. To ready themselves to open St. Joseph’s Place, they have prayed regularly with Hamilton Hill clergy and have volunteered at the SICM Food Pantry, Bethesda House and the Hamilton Hill Arts Center. They’ve passed the word about the new service through churches and human service agencies.

Now that the doors are officially open, they will welcome whoever walks in.

“We don’t know what we’re going to accomplish. We just hope that we will be a listening, prayerful presence for the people on Hamilton Hill. And if we do that, we’ve accomplished something,” Brink said.

Monday morning, the place was packed with volunteers and well-wishers. There were smiles, hugs and words of congratulations. A table was piled with cookies and cake.

It felt a lot like a birthday party.

Hogan was there in spirit, Brink and Neil assured.

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