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Rev. David Kirk, founder of Harlem’s Emmaus House, a community for the homeless, remembered

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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The NY Times had a rather remarkable obituary for Rev. David Kirk, a community leader who established Emmaus House in Harlem. Excerpt below. Audio available from NPR’s All Things Considered in Remembrances: Rev. Kirk, A Leader of Aid for the Poor.

Father Kirk, for decades a presence in the civil rights and antiwar movements, established Emmaus House in the mid-1960s on East 116th Street. It was conceived not as a shelter but as a community for the city’s homeless men and women and was modeled on the Emmaus movement, begun in France after World War II to aid the poor.

The Emmaus (pronounced ee-MAY-us) movement takes its name from the story in the book of Luke in which the resurrected Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus.

Not long after it began, Emmaus House moved to 160 West 120th Street. In the mid-1980s, it moved again, into the former Charles Hotel on Lexington Avenue at 124th Street. The building had long been known as a haven for drug dealers and prostitutes. As Emmaus House, it provided long-term housing to more than 70 people, and its community kitchen served 500 lunches a day.

It also offered a variety of programs, from teaching job skills like woodworking to providing social services for drug addicts and people with AIDS. Each resident was paid the same weekly stipend as Father Kirk: $25.

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Category: of saints & sinners

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