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Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities Housing the Homeless; Providing a place to call home

“Every night throughout our diocese, there are over 1500 men, women and children who are homeless. Think of it… individuals and families who have nowhere to go at day’s end to be safe, to find comfort, or to share the daily ups and downs of life…nowhere to call home. The reasons that people are homeless are as varied as the geography of our diocese. Some people may be homeless because they are living with mental illness or substance abuse and need a supportive home to help them move forward, some may be veterans who lost their way after living through the horrors of war in foreign lands, some families may be homeless because mom has made the brave decision to leave a domestic violence situation.

Being homeless robs a person of their dignity and sense of value as a human being made in God’s image. What a devastating thing. Pope Francis reminds us that mercy is at the heart of God and that “Jesus keeps knocking on our door in the faces of our brothers and sisters.” We at Catholic Charities Housing respond to this knocking as we work each and every day to help the men, women and children we serve experience God’s mercy and rediscover their human dignity by helping them find a place they can call home.”

 

Oneonta: “Reclamation and Validation”

In the city of Oneonta, Otsego County is perhaps the Catholic Charities Housing Office’s most unique SRO facility for housing the homeless. Instead of a single apartment building complex, three large and lovely neo Victorian houses located in well kept residential neighborhoods house eleven, nine and seven residents respectively. When asked what types of assistance she could use most, Site Manager, JoAnne Bragonier said “more houses” holding up a stack of 74 applications for 24 slots. Otsego County is one of New York’s poorest rural counties with 15.5% of the population living below the poverty line.  Homelessness is a problem that is not only confined to large urban centers. A 2013 Community Needs Assessment listed eviction as the number one reason for homelessness. Rural poverty presents unique problems for people trying to stay on their feet such as transportation challenges to and from jobs, health visits, interviews, appointments, or just food shopping. Communities and destinations are often separated by geography. A cab ride from Oneonta to Cobleskill and back can cost sixty dollars or a bus, if available, can be an all day experience in the rain or snow.

Polly Bailey, Case Manager in Oneonta says the fact that the three SRO houses are integrated into neighborhoods promotes a sense of community and ownership with residents. “We do our best to make our residents feel good about themselves with simple acts of kindness like the giving of a birthday card or a Christmas present like a movie pass.” As she recounted the man who had no place to go when he became jobless and homeless after he broke his back while visiting relatives in Florida, and the homeless person living in a garden shed on Walnut Street during the winter, JoAnne says, “We call homelessness Lifeus Interruptus.” Two words describe what it is JoAnne and Polly do: reclamation and validation.

 

St. Charles Lwanga Center
“We never Give Up on Anybody”

Amy Lacey is Catholic Charities’ Director of Emergency Services who has worked with people who are homeless for 14 years. She and Kamron Johnson, Sr. Resident Advisor oversee St. Charles Lwanga Center, a safe and spotless 19 bed temporary shelter facility for homeless men located in the South End of Albany. Catholic Charities Housing also manages Mercy House in Arbor Hill for homeless women and children. Amy says “We never give up on anybody ……..there are often misconceptions in society about who becomes homeless.” People with full time jobs living from check to check, middle-aged professionals having lost a job and their home, or as Kamron says, “Folks just burned out and exhausted from the grind” have all passed through Lwanga Center. The staff at Lwanga Center work to remind residents who stay for a maximum of 30 days just how worthwhile they are. Amy and Kamron work to lift people up. No one is a lost cause……keep trying and you are bound to score.

 

St. Peter’s Residence, Troy

Unlike a shelter, single room occupancy residences located in both Albany and Rensselaer offer permanent housing for men and women who are homeless and in need of low-cost housing with supportive services. Services include case management, meal programs, information and referral. On 5th street in Troy, Jim Crawford has served for six years as Case Manager at St. Peter’s Residence, a 51 unit SRO housing facility for residents largely with mental health disabilities who are homeless. The average stay for a resident is 2 years. St. Peter’s, which is housed in the recently rehabilitated 19th century brick school building of the now closed St. Peter’s Church, is unique in that a large percentage of residents are veterans. According to Jim “This is a great place to work. We have had many success stories here of people turning their lives around.”
 

 
 

RCDA
Office of Development and Stewardship
40 North Main Avenue
Albany, NY 12203
(518) 453-6680
stewardship@rcda.org

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