Archdiocesan agencies lead efforts to provide social, medical services

April 14, 2020

Agencies of the Archdiocese, including the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, continue to actively work to provide assistance to thousands in Galveston-Houston. (Photo courtesy of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Houston)

HOUSTON — In addition to the many social services provided at parishes, Archdiocesan agencies continue to provide needed assistance to thousands throughout Galveston-Houston.

Led by Ann Schorno, executive director, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is “doing everything (they) can possibly do to help,” Jenni Granero, director of development, said.

Like many other groups, the society is operating remotely, continuing to answer its helpline, which has seen twice as many calls for assistance than before, Granero said.

Schorno said, “We continue to respond to calls, placing the greatest emphasis on individuals who need food or shelter or whose utilities are about to be disconnected.”

During a disaster in the community, the demand for our services always increases, according to a statement released by the society. “Not only do we provide basic needs for the poor, but we also become a beacon of hope to the families who are being impacted by recent layoffs and furloughs,” it said.

While two thrift stores and the Vincentian Service Center (VSC) remained closed, 15 of their 21 pantries remain active, offering drive-through service, and home visits now take place on the phone or using technology. For more information about food distribution, including dates and times, call 713-741-8234.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has served more than 9,000 people with food assistance since the pandemic began.

“All of our programs have been up and running without interruption since the Coronavirus was first identified as a threat to our community,” said Catholic Charities President Cynthia Colbert. “What has changed is how we’re providing help. Our primary concern is protecting the safety of our clients, volunteers and staff while we serve.”

In just two weeks, Catholic Charities took more than 2,400 COVID-related calls and provided 79,000 pounds of food using drive-through distribution. That’s in addition to continuing service to thousands of clients already enrolled in the agency’s network of programs.

Using online resources, its immigration program is still instructing immigrants on their legal rights, while parenting education classes continue virtually. Material assistance continues as well, with meals and groceries dropped off safely for seniors, women veterans and refugees. Baby supplies are left on doorsteps for young parents.

“Through the grace of God, not even a pandemic can keep Catholic Charities from providing our life-changing services,” said Colbert. “We are people of faith relying on God’s protection as we help people during this time of great need.”

Magnificat Houses extends emergency stays for homeless

In coping with COVID-19, Magnificat Houses Inc. (MHI), has extended the usual three-day emergency shelter stay for homeless persons until the health crisis eases, perhaps weeks. The 51-year-old non-profit also put all 16 of its long-term neighborhood homes into early quarantine, confining some 150 adults once homeless and destitute.

“Keeping our very vulnerable population both healthy and fed — three meals a day — is a particular challenge now,” said John Boyles, MHI executive director. “All over the city supply chains for food, medical and cleaning goods have been suddenly interrupted, and service organizations are scrambling to fill the void, while paying more for basic supplies.”

Boyles says the best way to support Magnificat’s mission is through cash donations online, which enables them to procure urgently needed items as we locate them on the market or online.”

For more information, visit

San José Clinic leads safety-net charity care amid pandemic

Most Texans know that Texas leads the nation with the most uninsured and underserved individuals. Now, more than ever, these individuals need that critical access to health care.

Safety-net clinics, like San José Clinic in Houston, are meeting the current COVID-19 challenge head-on.
Joined by Christ Clinic in Katy and TOMAGWA in Harris, Waller and Montgomery counties, San José Clinic is a safety-net charity clinic that exclusively serves those who have no other access to health care.

San José Clinic is the innovative health care ministry of the Archdiocese. It has continued to provide patient care and much-needed prescriptions during the pandemic.

About 40% of the clinic’s patients have multiple co-morbidities, which makes them the most at risk in the community should they contract COVID-19. So, in early March, the medical staff began seeing patients through tele-health with daily assistance of medical support staff.

The pharmacy staff prepares prescriptions weekly and then they are dispensed to patients in a safe manner utilizing the parking lot and loading dock adjacent to the clinic building. The first week of this method of dispensing saw the Pharmacy staff fill about 1,000 prescriptions for approximately 200 patients. The average patient at the clinic is on 11 medications. In 2019, the clinic dispensed more than 25,000 prescriptions.

The clinic remains open only for dental emergencies and point of care testing one day a week. At 98 years old, and as Houston’s first and leading charity care provider of healthcare services for the underserved in the Greater Houston area, San José Clinic is not asking patients for any contribution toward their care during the pandemic, according to Maureen Sanders, president and CEO.

“Although this creates a financial strain for the organization, it is our mission to continue to care for those that need us the most — our patients,” Sanders said. “The San José Clinic team is doing an admirable job of continuing to provide the absolute best care to all of our patients given the much uncertainty that surrounds this challenge.”

Unlike federally qualified health clinics, these clinics rely solely on philanthropic funding to operate. They do not accept Medicaid, Medicare or third-party insurance. And their patients do not qualify for those programs and they cannot afford to purchase insurance in the marketplace.

Across these three clinic groups, patients come from more than 200 zip codes that encompass more than 30 counties in southeast Texas.

For the past several weeks, these clinics have implemented much of the same protocols as the major healthcare organizations in the community have as well as the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
However, due to the high-risk populations that these clinics serve, closing their doors would be a significant burden for the local healthcare system. To maintain operations, they have moved to virtual visits when possible, curbside pick-up for prescriptions and limited lab testing to their chronically ill patients whose conditions necessitate close monitoring.

Jody Hopkins, executive director of the Texas Association of Charitable Clinics, said, “People are talking about ‘first responders’ yet leaving out the system of charitable clinics across Texas. These clinics, who supplement their staff with volunteer medical providers, are first responders.”

For more information on all three clinics, visit their websites:, and