Our Stories — Supporter
Return to List of Our Stories
Fr. Joseph Mazzone
Pastor, St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, Hull
“But for a few different life experiences, we might have been sitting in their chairs and they in ours.”
In 1999, ELAHP set out to find a Program Manager. Eileen, the Program Director, cast a wide net, looking for the best candidate. Joe was one of many who applied for the position. Prior to that, he had worked with developmentally disabled adults who were living in group homes. He didn’t have much experience with the elderly or with homelessness. Eileen agreed to interview him because she knew him from the parish council on which they served together. The interview was mostly a courtesy; she didn’t think he was the most qualified candidate. But once they sat down together and began to talk about the program and homeless elders and what could be done to help them, Eileen knew right away that she had found ELAHP’s next Program Manager.
“Yes, it is frustrating on one level that we are even celebrating 25 years of ELAHP,” he explains. “That means there is still a need for ELAHP.” During his five years with ELAHP, Joe tried to approach each day with industriousness, optimism and humility. He recalls that challenges—personal, structural, societal—that seemed hopeless when he arrived suddenly seemed attainable. He attributes much of that to the positive attitude of the people he worked with.
“Sometimes the problems of the world seem so ominous,” he says. “So complex and so pressing. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Especially when you’re dealing with an issue as pervasive and complex as homelessness.” He goes on to say that it’s especially tempting to see the world divided into “us vs. them.” “Them” being the forces that allow homelessness to exist year after year.. “It’s easy to become demoralized and cynical,” he says. “To think to yourself, ‘Does anything I do really make a difference?’”
And yet, when he thinks of his time at ELAHP, he remembers it in a much more positive way. The work they did did make a difference. “For me, ELAHP exemplified the best way to tackle pressing social issues like homelessness. I never saw a more committed group of people willing to go above and beyond to get done what needed to be done.”
In 2004 he left ELAHP to enter the seminary and study for the priesthood. But he feels privileged to have had the opportunity to serve so many women and men who came to ELAHP for help. “It took great trust, courage and a willingness to be vulnerable on the part of our clients just to walk through our door,” he says. “But for a few different life experiences, we might have been sitting in their chairs and they in ours. The good folks at ELAHP knew this then and know it now, and that makes all the difference in the world.”