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The RoundTable

Hospitality in the Age of Crack

Spring 1994


Major Articles

  • United States’ Drug Crisis – Excerpted by Mark Scheu
  • Overpowering  Addiction: Crack Use Among the Homeless in St. Louis – Teka Childress interviews Dr. Elizabeth Smith
  • The L.A. Catholic Worker: A Narrow Path – Sandi Huckaby
  • The Philadelphia CW: No Final Answer – Daniel Conway
  • Dorothy Day House: The Road to Recovery – Lisa Marsella

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Karen House:

1840 Hogan St.

Saint Louis, MO  63106

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Regular Features

  • Cover – Artwork Kris Dennis
  • Why This Issue – Teka Childress
  • Slips of Roses – Poem by Martha Crawley for Ann Manganaro
  • Centerfold – Artwork Kris Dennis, Stories of Addiction
  • From Abroad – Central America – Maggie Fisher
  • From Karen House – Kris Dennis
  • From Little House – Mary Ann McGivern, SL
  • RoundTable Talk – Ellen Rehg

Why This Issue:

Unfortunately this issue chose us. Last summer we definitely reached a low point. Several of our guests were actively using crack, slipping out at night, stealing, and leaving their children poorly cared for. It felt as if we were becoming simply a flop house of users. Any sense of building a community or of building a new society within the shell of the old seemed to be slipping from our grasp. Of course, having women with addictions is not new to our house or to the Catholic Worker, but the extent and gravity of the problem has multiplied exponentially over the last few years due to crack cocaine.


The interview with Dr. Elizabeth Smith from Washington University testifies to the depth and breadth of the crisis among the poor and homeless in St. Louis. At Karen House we have grappled with how to respond to this reality of crack abuse and all the havoc it yields in our guests' lives and in our house. We have arrived at the point at which we do not allow people to stay with us if they are using and refuse treatment. Yet, we will generally keep the door open if they decide they want help for their addiction. We addressed this question of how to offer hospitality in the midst of this crisis to members of three other Catholic Worker Communities. Sandi Huckaby from the Los Angeles Worker lays out the dilemmas well, expressing her community's decision to establish limits on having active users stay with them while showing how they keep in sight the Catholic Worker value of Personalism. Dan Conway from Philadelphia describes his community's decision to steer their energies toward issues in their neighborhood, particularly among youth and away from offering hospitality to people with addictions. Lisa Marsella adds to these Catholic Worker reflections by describing her community's evolution in thinking and experience at Washington D.C.'s Dorothy Day House and their decision to encourage truth over lies. One of our guests at Karen House shares her experiences living with a crack addiction and her work at recovery.


Even though each person facing addiction must make the choice for healing we cannot ignore the great social responsibility we all bear for this problem. These are outlined in the Christie Institute excerpt opening this issue. We must work for a world where it is not only easier to be good, but one where it is even possible.


Kris Dennis describes the sense of community we now have at Karen House, Mary Ann McGivern describes her trip to Panama for the Economic Conversion Project, Maggie Fisher gives us a glimpse on what's happening in different countries in her "From Latin America" column, and Ellen Rehg, in her Round Table Talk ponders how love transcends space and time. And speaking of love in relation to space and time, we have a beautiful piece by Martha Crawley written for and about Ann Manganaro, which was mistakenly lost by us for the last issue. With Martha's kind permission we've printed it for you here.

Our hope in addressing this topic and in soliciting articles from other houses was to generate a Round Table discussion. We hope this is a helpful beginning.


-- Teka Childress



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