Living on the streets in Denver is not easy, especially in winter. Pandemic conditions this past year made it even harder, as funding for outreach programs dwindled and the homeless population struggled to survive in an expanding number of “tent cities.”
When the temperatures dipped last fall, Patrick Lubrano felt impelled to act. With support from his wife and two children and financial backing from fellow members of Assumption Council 3268 in Welby, Colo., the recently retired Knight launched an apostolate to bring blankets, food and supplies to the homeless.
Over four months, Lubrano raised enough money to buy and personally distribute more than 600 blankets, among other necessities. His charitable outreach has continued through the spring with deliveries of water, food and clothing. In the following text, adapted from an interview, he describes his mission, which flows from his Catholic faith and the principles of the Knights of Columbus.
The inspiration began last November when I pulled off a highway and saw a man freezing with a sign that read “Anything Helps.“ He noticed my Knights of Columbus hat and asked what council I was with. I said, “How do you know about that?“ And he said, “I was a Catholic priest.“
Well, that was enough for me to try to take him to a shelter. But he didn’t want to go. So, I gave him $20, my business card, and some blankets I had in the car and said, “If you ever need me, call me, I will come get you.“ It was overwhelming. As a Catholic and a Knight, I didn’t want to leave him there. I had a very hard time driving away.
And that inspired me to speak to my wife and get her support. And then I asked my grand knight if he would support me in doing a blanket drive and funding me. And the Knights gave me an envelope full of money to go buy the blankets. Having that support from my brothers in the council drives me.
I’m considered at risk for COVID-19 because of my underlying health issues. So, I have to take a lot of measures to protect myself. But it hasn’t stopped me because there’s such a great need.
I saw people freezing on the streets of Denver — shaking in doorways, living on the streets, in the gutters. And if they didn’t have a tent, they just lay on the ground. I pull right up to the people I see on the ground or freezing in a doorway. And I’ll cover them up with a blanket and just get back in my car and go on.
Sometimes, they’re not even awake, and I’ll cover somebody who’s out cold. I’ll make sure they’re breathing and check to see if they’re OK, but they might be drunk or on drugs, I don’t know. But I will cover them. And it’ll be like I was never there, except when they wake up, they’ll have a blanket on them. So, they’ll be surprised.
I’ve met many people who are doctors, lawyers, ex-law enforcement, welders, carpenters. Some of these guys are everyday people who just had very hard times.
I’m probably called to do this ministry because I’ve lived it. Growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., we had no heat in our bedrooms. So, if it was 20 below outside, it was 15 below inside, and we lived under horse blankets. My brothers and I used to curl up next to each other to stay warm. And knowing that feeling for many, many years drives me, because when somebody tells me, “I’m cold, I’m freezing,“ I’ve lived that myself.
My family was very close to being without a home. But we were blessed — God watched over us, and we got through it. My parents were very, very strong people and gave us the tools to move past it. And God has given me tools for this ministry. I have four older brothers who educated me on how to take care of myself in the streets. I have experience in law enforcement and high-profile security under my belt. And I was a warden for a while; I ran a jail. God prepared me and gave me the strength to do this work today.
When I go out at night, I know that the Lord is by my side. And some days I have to ask, “Guide me, Lord. I know you’re watching me. I know you’re here with me. So, keep an eye on me. And let me know what I’m doing right; let me know what I’m doing wrong.“ And he usually lets me know.
The ministry has impacted my family in such a positive manner. There are times that I’m not home, and I of course never want to leave my wife and children. I love being home with my family. But they understand the need and what daddy is doing.
Little Patrick told his teacher, “I want to be like my dad, and I want to help the homeless and give them blankets.“ To me, that is worth its weight in gold. And my daughter as well, she’s very giving. They both picked out stuff from their rooms to give away, and I found a family with little children and gave it to them from my children.
My wife is a very giving and faith-driven woman. Our relationship has always been good, but I feel like we’ve grown even closer. She supports me all the way. So, even on my home front, it’s done wonders.
My faith has significantly grown through this experience. I bow my head much more these days, and I give thanks for what I have and for my family, my wife and kids. I thank God for them every day.
‘God prepared me and gave me the strength to do this work today. When I go out at night, I know that the Lord is by my side.’
I’m very proud to be a Knight. I’ve been a member for over 25 years, ever since I joined Our Lady of Loretto Council 585 in Brooklyn. One of the characteristics of a Knight that I most aspire to is loyalty to one’s parish and community.
It wasn’t until Christmas that I learned the extent of the Order’s Leave No Neighbor Behind initiative. With COVID and the children home and everything, I wasn’t able to keep up on all of the K of C news. When I found out about it, I thought, “This goes hand in hand with what I’m doing because they are my neighbors.“ Leave No Neighbor Behind is really the example that I’m following — I just didn’t know it.
I’m planning on continuing this homeless outreach for at least the next five years, doing the blanket run for four months straight. Thanks to all of the donations I receive, I can keep going and buying blankets, and providing food and other supplies for people and families who really need them.
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