Detroit Mercy Law, the Pope Francis Center, and the City of Detroit partner to serve the city’s homeless population during the COVID-19 crisis

April 01, 2020

University of Detroit Mercy School of Law’s student parking lot on Larned Street has gained a new purpose during the COVID-19 crisis. With tents up and heaters on, it has become a space for Detroit’s homeless population to receive services while practicing social distancing.

The Pope Francis Center, which operates next door to Detroit Mercy Law’s downtown building, is dedicated to serving the city’s homeless population. The week of March 16, the Center decide to close its doors to protect the health of guests and volunteers in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

Still dedicated to serving hot meals and providing a safe place of rest, the Center began serving out of a small tent on the sidewalk. However, this tent did not provide the space necessary for social distancing.

On March 16, Fr. Tim McCabe, the Executive Director of the Pope Francis Center, called Dean Phyllis L. Crocker of the law school and asked if the Center could use the student parking lot to continue to offer services.

“I immediately said yes. We are not using [the lot] right now,” said Dean Crocker. “It just seemed like the right thing to do. And, frankly, an easy thing to do. It will make a positive difference for our community.”

There are now tents in the parking lot, allowing for meals to be served and medical checks to take place, all while keeping proper social distance. Additionally, at the request of the Mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, a truck equipped with showers and restrooms will be provided by a company used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and parked in the student lot, allowing for these services to continue with social distancing for the Center’s guests.