St. Vincent de Paul Society to host social justice forum in Attleboro

ATTLEBORO, Mass. — The Attleboro District Society of St. Vincent de Paul is inviting area residents to a legislative forum sponsored by its Voice of the Poor Committee for Social Justice. This gathering with area legislators will be held on Saturday, February 11 at 10 a.m. in the auditorium of Bristol Community College in Attleboro.

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Senator James Timilty and Representatives Jay Barrows, Paul Heroux, Paul Howitt and Betty Poirer have confirmed their attendance. They will answer questions and discuss legislation and public policies impacting the poor, marginalized and vulnerable in this area, said Diana Reeves, chairman of the District’s VOP Committee for Social Justice. “We hope many will join us for this public forum to learn and talk about these critical issues that affect those in need and the overall well-being of our community.”

Throughout the greater Attleboro area SVdP Society members — known as Vincentians — provide various forms of charitable aid to persons in need: short-term financial assistance for rent, utilities, transportation, food, clothing, furniture and other household needs. Unlike many other organizations, Vincentians typically meet individuals in need in their own homes to offer a listening ear and to learn first-hand about their unique needs. Attleboro district Vincentians also operate food pantries and a donated clothing store.

“But beyond the charity,” said Attleboro District President Mary Dwyer, “we also try to bring about systemic change in the lives of the poor and marginalized and we advocate for social justice reforms to help those in need to not only survive, but to advance and move out of poverty.” As examples, she pointed to the district’s “Getting Ahead in a Just Getting-By World” program which mentors individuals in a 16-week course on self-assessment strategies and changes to improve their lives on a longer-term basis, as well as a developing program to help ex-offenders from the Bristol House of Corrections re-integrate successfully into civil society.

The Legislative Forum with its emphasis on state-level social justice issues is intended, said Reeves, to focus attention on policies and legislation that either hinder or help the poor and marginalized in their struggle to survive and advance.

“We will be talking with our legislators about issues like health care for the poor, homelessness, substance abuse, job training and employment opportunities, criminal justice reform, and income inequality,” Reeves said. “There is so much happening right now it is dizzying. The new state legislature is just beginning its session and new policies are being announced from Washington at the federal level which will impact us here. This should be a great opportunity to learn and influence.”

Legislators from local boards of selectmen and city councils have been invited to attend. Attleboro Mayor Kevin Dumas has also committed to be on hand. Area high school and college students are also encouraged to attend.

“There will be an open question-and-answer session as well as a structured dialogue,” said Reeves.

This is the second legislative forum that the Attleboro District VOP Committee for Social Justice has held. “As our committee’s name makes clear, we all need to be a voice for the poor, the unheard, those without influence or power, if we are going to make this a just and fair society for all,” Reeves said.

More information is available from Reeves at rdianam@aol.comPre-registration is not required to attend the forum. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an independent Catholic lay organization with about 80,000 members in about 4,400 communities throughout the country.

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