Sisters show kindness to their brothers

St. John Center is fortunate to get a lot of support from nuns representing several religious orders. These dedicated and compassionate ladies tackle a variety of tasks to help the many clients who visit the shelter every day.

Why do you choose to spend time at St. John Center?

Sister Jeanne Niehaus has been the social services coordinator at SJC since March 2000.

A Sister of St. Benedict, Jeanne meets face-to-face with just about every man that enters the Center. She listens to their stories, tells them what help is available at SJC, and directs them to additional resources provided by other agencies. Jeanne also makes hundreds of temporary IDs for the men.

“St. John Center is a place where a guy can go from having nothing to take advantage of resources that can help him get an apartment, find a job, improve stability, receive guidance and set goals,” said Sister Jeanne.


Grace Simpson, an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph, has been volunteering at the sign-in desk for 18 months. Retired from the Sister Visitor Center, she was “looking for a place where I could work directly with the marginalized and needy. My philosophy comes from Proverbs 14:31 which says, ‘kindness shown to the poor is an act of worship.’”

Brendan Conlon
, an Ursuline Sister of Louisville, followed fellow sister, Elise Hovekamp, who did mending for the men of St. John Center. “I think being homeless, especially when no one cares, must be terrible. At St. John Center (and other local agencies) people really care. I think St. John Center is wonderful.”

Eva Kowalski
– A Sister of Charity of Nazareth, volunteers at sign-in and the shower room to honor fellow SCN Sister Mary Kathleen Sheehan, founding director of St. John Center.
“St. John Center is a place where the wounded Christs seek recognition, comfort and services. As a volunteer I consciously attempt to treat each of the homeless men with dignity and respect. I also try to give positive feedback, and when warranted, anything to enhance their self-esteem.”

Nancy Reynolds
– a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, visits St. John Center regularly (along with her friend Lynn Jarrell, OSU) to bring food and much-needed supplies for the men. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, which is operated by the order, just happens to be Maria Price’s alma mater. “The gentlemen of SJC are God’s people and as such deserve love, mercy and justice. I see myself as a loving and merciful person and I freely spread that to the men who come to St. John Center.”


What do you get in return for your service at St. John Center?

Grace Simpson – “There are a lot of dedicated staff and volunteers who serve the homeless men, treating them with respect and dignity. It is my privilege to help and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the work here.”
Brendan Conlon – “I get a lot of friendly smiles and sometimes a ‘Thank you.’ I get the joy of having someone come in and say, ‘I got a job’ or ‘I got an apartment.’ I get the satisfaction of knowing that I’m a small part of a big effort to make people’s lives better.”
Eva Kowalski – “The challenge, the humor, the hopelessness, the sharing and the absolute gift of each of the wounded Christs keeps me coming back to SJC. I get a deep sense of satisfaction being of service to the homeless men in Louisville, and I’m grateful to be sharing the charism of the SCNs.”
Nancy Reynolds – “My spirit is filled every time I have been to St. John Center. I have seen a place of warmth and caring for all the men who spend time there. There is such a good spirit among them and that rubs off on me.”

Seeing Gospel Values Every Day

There is no member of the St. John Center staff that has interacted with, or impacted the lives of, more of the agency’s clients than Sister Jeanne Niehaus.

Dozens of times each day men seek her out for a variety of reasons. She can call most of them by name. Over the last 14 years she has earned their trust. She has proven time and again that she is reliable and resourceful. Many simply call her, “my friend.” Sister Jeanne recorded visits from 226 men in September but notes that she interacted with many more each time she ventured out of her office. Continue reading

Burks teaching clients how to be successful

Vickie1-150x150Vickie Burks, who has been a housing case manager at St. John Center for Homeless Men since September 2008, uses a simple truth to help the 20 men she works with live successfully in apartments of their own.

“My philosophy,” she said the other morning, in her office to the left as you face the center’s front counter, “is if you have a fish you can eat for a day. But if you know how to fish, you can eat for a lifetime.”

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Walter among 20 percent of SJC clients who would benefit from wage increase

walter2-150x150The working poor are always present at every homeless shelter and St. John Center is no exception.

Meet Walter. Soon to be 52 years old, he is trying to make it on his own with a minimum wage paycheck.

Since last February, Walter has been employed by a national fast food chain. He is a good worker and has gotten two raises since he started. He works fulltime and makes just under $8 per hour, giving him a weekly paycheck, before taxes, of about $315.

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Flanagan’s will support O’Sullivan Fund on Sept. 22

flannigans-150x150All proceeds from food and drink purchased at Flanagan’s Ale House, 934 Baxter Avenue, from 11 a.m. until close on Monday Sept. 22 will go to support the Dona O’Sullivan Fund to Fight Homelessness.

Dona was a former St. John Center supporter and board member who died in September 2010.  The Fund, created in her memory, established a Case Management Institute which offers special training for select case managers that work with the homeless or formerly homeless persons.

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