Detroit Mercy Law, Pope Francis Center, Partner To Help City’s Homeless

University of Detroit Mercy School of Law’s student parking lot on Larned Street has been repurposed during the COVID-19 crisis.

With tents up and heaters on, it has become a space for Detroit’s homeless population to receive services while practicing social distancing.

For years, the Pope Francis Center, which operates next door to Detroit Mercy Law’s downtown building, has provided hot meals and a safe place to rest for Detroit’s homeless community. But on March 16, the center decided to close its doors to protect the health of guests and volunteer in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

But the need didn’t stop, so the center began serving out of a small tent on the sidewalk. The tent, however, did not provide the space necessary for social distancing.

So, Fr. Tim McCabe, S.J., executive director of the Pope Francis Center, called Detroit Mercy Law Dean Phyllis L. Crocker to ask whether the center could use the student parking lot to continue to offer services.

“I immediately said yes. We are not using the lot right now,” Crocker said. “It just seemed like the right thing to do. And, frankly, an easy thing to do. It will make a positive difference for our community.”

Large tents in the parking lot mean meals can be served and medical checks can take place, all while practicing safe social distancing. Additionally, at the request of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, a truck equipped with showers and restrooms will be provided by a company used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and parked in the student lot, allowing for these services to continue with social distancing for the Center’s guests.


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