|Arts & Entertainment|
|Breaking Open the Word|
|World & Nation|
|DCR Advertising Rates|
|DCR Submission Guidelines|
December 10, 2008
A dignified home
Archdiocesan Housing marks 40 years providing affordable rentals to low-income people
By Roxanne King
Long before the current economic crisis, Catholic leaders were concerned about providing quality, affordable housing to people.
In 1968 Bishop George Evans and a group of Catholic businessmen formed a committee to help fill the need for affordable housing in the Denver metropolitan area. That committee became Archdiocesan Housing Inc., which celebrated its 40th anniversary last week.
“It was started,” explained Josh Russell, executive director of Archdiocesan Housing, “in response to the racial turmoil in America at the time, specifically the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. The original intent, in addition to providing affordable housing, was to provide housing opportunities to folks where people of different races and ethnicities could live together.”
Four decades later, the organization remains committed to caring for the poor and vulnerable by building communities that are welcoming to all and which provide opportunities for its residents to flourish.
Today, Archdiocesan Housing operates 20 properties in metro Denver, on the Western Slope and in Wyoming that provide 1,200 economical and comfortable apartments or townhouses for seniors and families to rent.
“Our properties are attractive, dignified places to live,” said Russell. “(They’re) a resource to enable families to have a richer existence.”
Having an affordable, comfortable home enables low-income families to experience stability—heads of households can focus on and keep a job and children can stay at one school and concentrate on their studies, which increases the chance for both to succeed.
“When you have a stable, affordable place to live you can take that off your list of things to worry about,” Russell said. “And you have dignity from living in a nice place.”
An affiliate of Catholic Charities, Archdiocesan Housing strives to offer its residents a home where they can form friendships and build community. Support services and enrichment activities are made available to residents to help them maintain and/or achieve independence, whether they are a single-parent mother in need of food assistance or a senior citizen who needs help with housecleaning.
DeDe Davis, 39, is a single-parent mother of five children ranging in age from 4 to 22. Disabled by mental health problems, Davis’ four youngest children live with her. Before moving just over a year go into Archdiocesan Housing’s Mount Loretto, a multi-family housing complex in southwest Denver, Davis and her children were homeless and had bounced between sleeping in shelters, in her van and on people’s floors. Her troubles started when the business she worked for shut down; Davis lost her job and was evicted from her apartment.
“Being (at Mount Loretto) means a lot to me and my children,” Davis said about the three-year-old community that features light-filled townhouses offering panoramic views of the Front Range.
Support services Catholic Charities has provided to Davis and her family include food aid, parenting classes, assistance securing Medicare and utilities relief, and guidance in returning to school. Because of all the help, Davis has hope for the future. She plans to enter community college next month with the goal of earning a degree to work with special needs children.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve been really blessed,” Davis said.
“I would just like to thank Catholic Charities for all their help,” she said. “It means the world to me.”
Dorothy Taylor, 83, moved into Archdiocesan Housing’s 11-story senior living complex Marian Plaza in the City Park West neighborhood in 1986, after a friend told her about it.
“I loved it,” Taylor said emphatically, later adding, “I was just pleased as punch because my apartment is a nice, bright, cheerful place to be.”
“It’s a nice place, it’s nice and clean,” she continued. “If it needs painted or different things, they take care of it. I’ve been here 22 years. I have a lovely view. I can walk to the doctor near St. Joe’s (Hospital). I can take a bus to town.”
Residents have a variety of social activities made available to them, Taylor said, ranging from ball games and concerts to picnics in the mountains and shopping excursions. A staffer aids the seniors in finding and accessing benefits available to them and gets them help with household tasks should they need that.
“We have beautiful services here,” declared Taylor.
“The security of the building is better than in your home,” she said, adding that the facility offers other advantages as well.
“If you fall out of bed, you pull a cord and someone can come and help you,” Taylor said. “It’s a very safe place.”
In addition to serving low-income seniors and families, Archdiocesan Housing also serves special needs populations, operating migrant and seasonal housing complexes in Greeley and a house for homeless veterans in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. And it offers affordable housing where the need is acute.
“Our properties in the mountains are of particular value (to low- and moderate-income people) because that area is so expensive,” Russell said. “In the Roaring Fork Valley between Aspen and Glenwood Springs there are four affordable housing properties—two are ours.”
Reflecting on the organization’s anniversary, Russell said it’s a time to recall the people who created and fostered the ministry.
“At the end of the day, it’s people who get these things built. We have been blessed with having strong leadership at the archdiocese and on our board,” Russell said. “They have shown dedication, compassion and commitment.
“Sister Mary Lucy Downey is the prime example,” he said, referring to Archdiocesan Housing’s first executive director, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth who led the organization for 22 years.
“She left an indelible impact on the organization,” declared Russell.
The work of Archdiocesan Housing continues, the executive director said, noting that the organization plans to begin building a 56-unit family housing property in Golden next summer and has applied with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop a 19-unit project in Commerce City for people with physical or mental disabilities.
“We are dedicated to preserving the housing we have and growing the company to meet the continued demand for affordable housing,” Russell said.
Some 2,500 people currently live in Archdiocesan Housing properties, he said, estimating that over the years, the organization has helped untold numbers of people.
“We’ve seen great success stories,” he said.