[Hpn] new variant on the "old homeless white guy"

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Fri, 01 Dec 2000 21:03:43 -0700


Homeless man puts human face on charity
He was on his own for decades before Catholic Charities helped
Colin Mulvany - The Spokesman-Review

"I'm well taken care of," says Stephen Maresca, 77, who attended Monday's
Catholic Charities Christmas Collection kickoff. Maresca, who lived on the
streets for 50 years, now lives in the Catholic Charities-run Delaney
Apartments in downtown Spokane.

Kelly McBride - Staff writer

Spokane _ While Spokane's Catholic bishop and a dozen social workers sat
around a conference table talking about raising money, Stephen Maresca
talked about being a bum.

"I was a bum for 50 years," said the grizzled man with no teeth. "Then one
day a kind soul took me down to the Delaney and got me an apartment."

Sitting next to Bishop William Skylstad, Maresca brought a heavy dose of
reality to the Catholic Charities annual Christmas Collection kickoff.
During the next month, the largest private provider of social services in
the Inland Northwest will try to raise $650,000.

The bulk of the money will come during Christmas Eve Mass. But every year,
at least 10 percent comes from non-Catholics who mail in donations.

The money supplements Catholic Charities' annual budget for 10 programs in
37 locations throughout Eastern Washington. The programs provide shelter,
clothing and food to the homeless, apartments for the elderly and the
disabled and a variety of counseling services.

Maresca, 77, benefits from two of those programs. He lives in the Delaney
Apartments and eats lunch at the House of Charity.

Maresca is homeless in the classic sense of the word. Orphaned at age 2, he
ran away from a New York orphanage in 1933, at age 11. Hobos taught him to
ride the rails and fend for himself.

Other than time spent in prison for robbery and burglary, and a brief stay
in an apartment in Yuma, Ariz., he has lived outside.

"They used to call me the gourmet burglar," he said. "I would break into
houses and steal the groceries."

He came to Spokane several years ago, where he ate his meals at the old
House of Charity on Main Avenue. But, he refused to sleep in the building.

"I'll put it plainly, it was dilapidated," he said of the old shelter. "They
offered to let me sleep there and I said no, thank you. I would rather sleep

He considers the new $2 million facility, which opened two months ago at
Browne and Pacific, state of the art.

"Ain't nobody got nothing to complain about there," he said. "I thought it
was very nice of the people of Spokane to build that place for guys that got
nowhere else to go."

It was a social worker from the House of Charity who convinced him to get
off the street last year.

"Certain people see an old man like me, living outside, nose running in the
cold, getting a fever and all, well I guess they felt sorry for me," he

But sympathy can be hard to come by, he said. Maresca's scruffy clothing
alarms people. When he walks into a public building. "They say, `Kindly
leave, before we call the police."'

Even at the Catholic chancery office, where Maresca occasionally stops to
get warm, "I see them looking at me funny," he said.

Skylstad countered: "I'm sure we were looking to see if you needed

Living in the Delaney has been an adjustment, he said. Sometimes he gets so
homesick for his life outside that he packs up a bedroll and goes walking
along the railroad tracks.

Every day he goes back to the House of Charity for lunch.

"I don't want my old friends to think I'm too high class, now that I got an
apartment," he said.

Skylstad bantered with Maresca during the Monday event, then said that
people like Maresca illustrate how essential Catholic Charities is to the

More than 100,000 people get help from the charity every year. Most of those
people are not Catholic.

"We provide a variety of ministries and services in our community," he said.
"I'm very proud of that."

€Kelly McBride can be reached at (509) 459-5449 or by e-mail at


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