Catherine’s Hearth helps homeless

Mercy Medical Center has launched a new program to help homeless families who are living in shelters, transitional housing or doubled-up with relatives.

Catherine’s Hearth, which opened earlier this fall, is a support center that offers a safe, spiritual environment with classes that help homeless adults build communication and relationship skills, improve self-esteem and learn practical skills in everything from budgeting to cooking.

Named for Catherine McAuley, the first Sister of Mercy, Catherine’s Hearth is an outgrowth of Mercy Children’s Health Outreach Project (MCHOP).

Dorothy Dobbyn, program director, says MCHOP nurses and social workers, who visited people in shelters, realized that many of the problems there related to poor communication and relationship skills.

“What they’ve seen is people having trouble with relational health, trouble forming relationships,” Ms. Dobbyn said, adding that Catherine’s Hearth uses healing arts therapy, which “will help people talk about themselves and their issues.”
As she walks through the center at the corner of Madison and St. Paul streets, Ms. Dobbyn proudly displays a classroom with Dell computer workstations, a children’s room and a comfortable lounge area.

“God’s hand has been in this all along,” she said. “Things have just fallen together too much to be coincidence.”

She cites the example of a contact with Landers Appliance, who arranged for Maytag to donate a washer and dryer; Catherine’s Hearth threw a party and the guest of honor was none other than the Maytag repairman.

Those appliances will allow a homeless parent to attend class and get the family’s laundry done at the same time.

Catherine’s Hearth is not aimed at families in crisis, but rather those ready to identify goals and take steps toward independence. Participants must be referred, and the program will offer on-site case management, supplied by social work interns and supervised by a MCHOP social worker.

Ms. Dobbyn said the goal for the first year was 20 families, but already she’s had nine referrals. S.H.I.N.E. classes, a program geared toward women surrounded by drugs and poverty, are underway. Children in the program are attending exhibits at the nearby Walters Art Museum, a mural is started on a classroom wall and a MICA student is teaching embroidery classes, just a few of the activities that pack the center’s calendar.
Those interested in volunteering for Catherine’s Hearth or making a donation to the program, should contact Ms. Dobbyn at 410-244-1840 or e-mail

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.