Fr. Tim McCabe, President and CEO of The Pope Francis Center speaks during the opening of the game-changing Pope Francis Bridge Housing Campus in Detroit on Monday, June 3, 2024. Credit: Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press

The Pope Francis Center’s new housing campus in Detroit’s Core City has opened its doors and residents are expected to arrive later this month.

Detroit Free Press
This story also appeared in Detroit Free Press

On Monday, city and state officials joined Fr. Tim McCabe, president and CEO of the Pope Francis Center, and Ford’s CEO Jim Farley for a ribbon cutting of the $40 million project designed to help people transition from the streets into housing. The Bridge Housing Campus is a culmination of best practices from across the country to address chronic homelessness, under one roof, brought right to Detroit.

“We’re going to change the reality here in the city,” McCabe said in the facility’s new gymnasium. “We’re going to change the conversation around what it means to be homeless. … That’s what we’re going to do in here and we do that with radical compassion and love — that’s the secret sauce.”

The Bridge Housing Campus, located at 2915 West Hancock Street, has been under construction since 2022, but in the works for nine years.

“It started out of loss and out of heartache,” McCabe said. There was a time, a week before Christmas, when the Pope Francis Center lost guests it worked with, including four who overdosed from fentanyl and those who died because they didn’t have access to proper medical care.

McCabe has said he hopes the project will spur a national conversation around the causes and solutions to homelessness, especially as the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether cities can fine and arrest people for sleeping outdoors when there are no shelter beds available.

In 2022, there were 200 people who were homeless on the streets of Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park, according to a one-night tally conducted by the Homeless Action Network of Detroit (HAND) in January. Last year, those experiencing unsheltered homelessness were not counted but there were 1,280 people living in shelters or other housing programs. Data for this year’s count — meant to provide a snapshot of homelessness in a community and help determine needs and federal funding for programs and services — is not yet available.

Michigan saw an 8% increase in the number of people facing homelessness, up to 32,589 in 2022 from 30,113 the year before, according to the latest statewide report.