The office in charge of Pope Francis’ acts of charity announced the opening of a laundromat for Rome’s poor and homeless. Dubbed the “Lavenderia di Papa Francesco” (“Pope Francis Laundry”) this service was inspired by the pope’s call for “concrete signs of mercy” during the Year of Mercy in 2016.
“Here, then, is…a place and service to give a concrete form of charity and mercy to restore dignity to so many people who are our brothers and sisters,” said the Papal Almoner’s office.
The laundromat will be located in a complex run by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio, which provides other services for the poor such as showers, a medical clinic, and a barber shop. Whirlpool Corporation donated the new washers and dryers and Procter & Gamble will donate free supplies of detergent and fabric softener, according to the Papal Almoner.
On Saturday, March 25th, North Carolina native Oscar Davis Jr. finally received the Purple Heart he earned during WWII exactly 72 years, one month and two weeks ago. Davis had been assigned to “Animal” Company of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He was wounded while serving as a radiotelephone operator during the Battle of the Bulge.
Pvt. Davis was knocked down by a piece of German shrapnel while his unit was under shellfire. The radio on his back protected him from immediate death. The shells struck a nearby tree, which fell on Davis, causing a spinal injury that paralyzed him from the waist down for three weeks. Once Davis recovered, he rejoined his unit in Germany.
Davis had been told years ago that he would receive the Purple Heart, an award that recognizes troops wounded or killed in action against an enemy of the United States. Unfortunately, the paperwork for the award was never signed.
The medal ceremony took place in a dining room at Heritage Place in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The 92 year-old veteran was smiling as Lt. Col. Marcus Wright, commander of the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, pinned it to his jacket. “This has been some day,” said Davis. “I couldn’t believe all this was going to happen. I just want to thank the Lord.”
Family and friends of Davis’ attended the ceremony, along with soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team and 82nd Airborne Division.
“All I can say about this is ‘Wow’,” Lt. Col. Wright said. “I’m absolutely honored to be here today.” Wright presided over the whole event.
After the medal was awarded, soldiers from A Company presented Davis with a unit coin and a shirt. Dozens of people lined up to shake Davis’ hand. The medal ceremony was the result of almost two years of work undertaken by the Veterans’ Legacy Foundation, a North Carolina-based organization that helps veterans receive the awards that are owed to them. Volunteers searched an entire archive of war reports for proof of Davis’ injuries, said foundation director John Elscamp. In 2015, the Veterans’ Legacy Foundation helped Davis receive the Bronze Star and other awards that he had earned but never collected.
Multnomah County is searching for homeowners in the Portland area who are willing to donate their backyards so they can build tiny homes to shelter homeless people. Nearly 1,900 people sleep outside each night in Portland, with many more sleeping in shelters. The county would build the home, called an Accessory Dwelling Unit, at no cost to the homeowner. A homeless person or family would live in the ADU for five years and after that time, the homeowner would have unrestricted use of the building.
“Shelter beds are amazingly critical,” said Mary Li, the director of Multnomah Idea Lab. “They save lives but none of us wants to think of anyone, particularly a family of children living in a shelter for any period of time. What this does is offer the ability of the homeowner to utilize underutilized space in their backyard.”
Amy Talbert has been homeless for almost a year and is now pregnant with twins. Talbert and her husband have been looking for stable housing since their home in Baton Rouge was flooded.
“I have PTSD and my husband has PTSD, and in the shelters, you are in such close proximity…you don’t feel safe, you don’t feel secure, there’s no privacy,” said Talbert.
She explained that even married couples often get separated in shelters. She and her husband decided to stay in a tent instead. She likes the idea of a tiny home better.
“I think it would be a complete blessing,” Talbert said. “It wouldn’t be a tent. It would be safe and stable.”
According to Li, these homes aren’t meant to be “forever homes,” but safe places for families to live while they search for a permanent home. The county prefers that the donated backyards come from homes close to services such as public transit, public schools, grocery stores, and daycares. The tenants of the ADU would benefit from social services through A Home For Everyone. A tax abatement program is in the works which would exempt homeowners from paying additional taxes.
Multnomah County officials plan to start with just four housing units but hope to expand the program. The county is currently seeking homeowners interested in helping the homeless in a huge way. Two hundred homeowners have already expressed interest in donating their backyards. To sign up, click here.
Stefano Boeri, an Italian architect, recently announced his plans to help decrease pollution in Nanjing, a city in eastern China. Boeri is famous for the Bosco Verticale, or Vertical Forest, a skyscraper layered with trees. He plans to build two similar structures in Nanjing: towers which will be home to 23 different species of trees and more than 2,500 cascading shrubs. The two buildings will house offices, a luxury hotel, a museum, and a green architecture school. They are already under construction and are scheduled to be completed next year.
China is a country known for its high levels of pollution, especially in its cities. While Boeri is delighted that his towers will help the people of Nanjing, he has an even bigger goal to help tackle the pollution problem. He wants to create “forest cities” to help clear the air in China.
“We have been asked to design an entire city where you don’t only have one tall building but you have 100 or 200 buildings of different sizes, all with trees and plants on the facades,” Boeri said. “We are working very seriously on designing all the different buildings. By 2020 we could imagine having the first forest city in China.”
Boeri’s buildings are projected to absorb 25 tons of carbon dioxide from Nanjing’s air every year and produce 60 kg of oxygen each day.
Boeri’s first “forest city” will be in Luizhou, a city of 1.5 million people in the southern province of Guangxi. He plans to build a second city around Shijiazhuang, a large industrial metropolis that consistently finds itself on China’s lists of most polluted cities. Boeri hopes to create many of these sustainable mini-cities which will help provide a greener future for the country.
Boeri says that this idea is simple but not spectacular. “What is spectacular is the nature, the idea of having a building that changes color with each season. The plants and trees are growing and they are completely changing.”
Boeri believes his project will lay the groundwork for similar developments elsewhere: “We think—and we hope—that this idea of vertical forests can be replicated everywhere. I hope that what we have done can be useful for other kinds of experiments.”
Ahmed Khalifa, a 17-year-old Muslim teen, recently assisted Brooklyn police in the arrest of Rayvon Jones, a man who assaulted a 56-year-old woman. Khalifa was on the southbound Q-train when he saw Jones slap a Jewish Orthodox woman across the face. The strike was so hard that it broke the woman’s glasses and caused her face to bleed. The woman fell unconscious and Jones left the train at the next subway stop. “For some reason, he just decided to hit her. It was a very hard slap, I could almost feel it,” Khalifa said. “He was a very big, big guy.” Other Q-train passengers helped the injured woman while Khalifa told the conductor to call for help while he chased Jones. Khalifa lost sight of Jones and, after failing to catch the attention of a police cruiser, he flagged down another Orthodox passerby who offered to help. The two found Jones at a bus stop and called the police with the assailant’s location. Police captured Jones as he boarded the bus. Though he was screaming violent threats and kicking the doors of the bus, Jones was arrested. Assemblyman Dov Hikind honored Khalifa with a legislative citation and a laptop in the week following the attack. “Some people are like ‘she’s Jewish, why did you help her,’” said Khalifa. “I’m like ‘everyone is equal.’ I treat everyone the same way.”