By Paul Ainslie, President of SVdP Indy
Recently we surpassed 100,000 shoppers at our Food Pantry. These shoppers represent many households: children, the elderly and working neighbors living in poverty. Each encounter with a shopper is a chance to look at these shoppers and see the face of Jesus in them.
Home visits have been happening this year after a two-year absence due to COVID. These visits bring two Vincentians into a home to bring our love and care and see what can be done to help. It’s another opportunity to see Jesus in those we serve.
As a one-to-one service ministry, we value these interactions as a critical part of our work. But we must also be sure that our interactions with our neighbors are safe, non-threatening encounters. Similarly, we also must ensure that our facilities where volunteers and employees work are safe and free from situations that are threatening, abusive or demeaning to anyone.
Those we serve, whether in the Food Pantry, Distribution Center, Changing Lives Forever classes or Home Visits, are likely vulnerable due to the situations of their lives. Similarly, many of our volunteers have conditions in their lives that may make them vulnerable to abuse or exploitation.
Our international organization has asked that all St. Vincent de Paul Councils around the world implement a Safeguarding Policy that clearly spells out what we do to ensure the safety of all vulnerable people whom we serve as well as everyone who serves in any capacity with us. Though this policy is new to us, most other organizations working with children and other vulnerable populations have such policies. This includes schools, the Church, and scouting organizations.
Our policy will require broad awareness of the requirements and responsibilities, some background checks, and photo IDs for all employees and some volunteers. These requirements will not be burdensome or onerous. However, we believe them necessary to protect those we serve and ourselves.
More details will be available to all Conference and Employees in November. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this important change.