Archdiocesan Housing lends helping hand to people from all walks of life

Moira Cullings

Six months after Christina moved to Denver, she received an unpleasant, life-changing surprise.

Her rent jumped from $675 to $1,000 at the end of her lease. With her job as a server at an airport restaurant, Christina wouldn’t be able to afford such a dramatic rent increase. She would have to move again.

“I don’t know how people afford to live here, honestly,” said Christina.

Feeling out of options, she took a chance when a friend suggested looking into affordable housing.

Christina applied for the Archdiocesan Housing program, an affiliate of Catholic Charities, and received an offer for a one-bedroom apartment for much cheaper. Now, she can once again afford to live in Denver and keep her job, rather than move somewhere else and start all over again.

“It’s been a very good fit for me,” said Christina. “I find it a pretty quiet place to live, and I’ve always had very positive experiences with management.”

Broadway Junction in Denver allows residents to pay affordable rent and continue living in the city they love.

This year, Archdiocesan Housing is celebrating its 50th anniversary — five decades of serving a wide range of people in all walks of life, from the homeless to first-year teachers who could not otherwise afford to live in Denver.

Archdiocesan Housing was founded at the time of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as well as the Fair Housing Act, which made it unlawful to refuse to sell, rent to or negotiate with someone based on categories like race, religion and status.

Now, the housing program is as needed as ever.

“The unfortunate state of Colorado and the nation is there’s an incredible affordable housing crisis,” said Justin Raddatz, Executive Director of Archdiocesan Housing.

“Within Colorado, one third of all renter households are paying more than 30 percent of their income towards rent,” he said. “Twenty five percent of renter households are paying more than half of their income towards rent.

“The crisis it creates is people in that situation saying, ‘Do I pay the rent bill, or do I buy medication for my family?’”

It’s been a very good fit for me.”

The program has grown tremendously over the years and now manages 1,700 apartment units, owning all but 200 of them. The units make up 29 properties, which are strategically located around Denver and beyond.

An example of the tactical placement is the program’s newest development — the Guadalupe Apartments in Greeley.

“It ties into a homeless shelter that Catholic Charities has operated for the last nine years,” said Raddatz. “On the same site, we built a 47-unit apartment building right across the parking lot to serve the folks that are coming through the shelter.”

The Guadalupe Apartments in Greeley are the newest development for Archdiocesan Housing and help those coming out of a homeless shelter just across the parking lot to find better stability.

Building an apartment near a homeless shelter is meant to help people begin a life of long-term stability, rather than exit temporary housing and end up struggling financially all over again or become completely homeless.

Raddatz explained it’s not difficult to fill the Archdiocesan Housing buildings, and that the average waiting list for a property is two to three years but can reach up to seven or eight years.

“What we’ve decided is we want to serve the most vulnerable,” said Raddatz. “In the affordable housing world, those are the people that are homeless or the closest to being homeless.”

Although the program seeks to help those particularly at rock bottom, each property is set up to serve a specific income range. Some serve families who are homeless, others serve first-year firefighters or those who work in fields that don’t require a degree. The properties are designed for individuals as well as families.

The program doesn’t serve anyone based on their religion, but on their need.

“We’re not in the business of serving people because they’re Catholic,” said Raddatz. “We serve people because we’re Catholic.”

Raddatz explained that the people in Archdiocesan Housing come from a variety of situational backgrounds, from substance abuse issues to PTSD to mental illness.

“As many residents as we have, we have that many backgrounds and stories about why they got to where they got,” said Raddatz. “The common thread is they didn’t have a support network like most of us do to help pick them up when they fell.”

We’re not in the business of serving people because they’re Catholic. We serve people because we’re Catholic.”

Many made bad decisions in their lives or went through unfortunate circumstances, he added.

“But they didn’t have anyone there to lend a hand when they needed help. We want to be that hand to help pick them up.”

To accommodate each individual even further, the program offers additional services including case management, counseling and job training to help each person with their particular situation.

Raddatz believes that what sets Archdiocesan Housing apart from other affordable housing options is the program’s compassion.

He and his team have a huge hope for those who enter Archdiocesan Housing, whether it happens immediately or years down the road.

“Ultimately, we’re trying to bring souls closer to Christ,” he said.

For more information, visit the Archdiocesan Housing website.

COMING UP: Seeking justice, transparency and accountability, archdiocese voluntarily enters agreement with Colorado attorney general

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Seeking justice, transparency and accountability, archdiocese voluntarily enters agreement with Colorado attorney general

Initiatives include independent investigation and independent reparations program

Mark Haas

With a desire to “shine the bright light of transparency” on the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors within the Church, Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila has announced that the three Colorado dioceses have voluntarily partnered with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to conduct an independent review of the dioceses’ files and policies related to the sexual abuse of children.

In a joint news conference on February 19 at the attorney general’s office, it was also announced that the three dioceses will voluntarily fund an independent reparations program for survivors of such abuse.

“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound,” said Archbishop Aquila. “While this process will certainly include painful moments and cannot ever fully restore what was lost, we pray that it will at least begin the healing process.”

It is well known that child sexual abuse is a societal problem that demands attention and action,” said Weiser. “I am pleased the Church has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for victims.”

Discussions for these two initiatives began last year with former Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, and then finalized recently with Weiser. Both Coffman and Weiser praised the dioceses’ willingness to address this issue.

“It is well known that child sexual abuse is a societal problem that demands attention and action,” said Weiser. “I am pleased the Church has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for victims.”

Coffman added: “Childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution or to the Catholic Church. The spotlight is on the Catholic Church, but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on what has happened.

“[The dioceses] demonstrated their commitment to acknowledging past abuse by priests and moving forward with honesty and accountability.”

The independent file review will be handled by Robert Toyer, a former U.S. Attorney for Colorado. His final report is expected to be released in the fall of 2019 and will include a list of diocesan priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors, along with a review of the dioceses’ handling of the allegations. The report will also include an evaluation of the dioceses’ current policies and procedures, something that was not included in other states’ reviews, such as the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.

“We in Colorado have found our own way in the wake of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report,” said Weiser. “We have a set of dioceses here who came to the table to develop appropriate solutions that are collaborative, committed to transparency and put victims first.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, alongside Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, speaks during a press conference announcing a comprehensive joint agreement with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to conduct an independent review of the dioceses’ files and policies related to the sexual abuse of children at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center on February 19, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Archdiocese of Denver)

“This is not a criminal investigation. This is an independent inquiry with the full cooperation of the Catholic Church,” said Weiser.

Since 1991, the Archdiocese of Denver has had a policy of mandatory reporting of all allegations to local authorities. The procedures were further strengthened by the 2002 Dallas Charter to include comprehensive background checks, zero-tolerance policies, safe environment training, and training for children as well.

“This independent file review presents an opportunity for an honest and fair evaluation of the Church in Colorado’s historical handling of the sexual abuse of minors by priests,” said Archbishop Aquila.  “We are confident in the steps we have taken to address this issue and that there are no priests in active ministry currently under investigation.”

We have a set of dioceses here who came to the table to develop appropriate solutions that are collaborative, committed to transparency and put victims first.”

The independent reparations program will be run by two nationally recognized claims administration experts, Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, who will review individual cases and make financial awards to victims who elect to participate. The victims are free to accept or reject the award, but the Colorado dioceses are bound by what the administrators decide.

The program will have oversight provided by an independent committee chaired by former U.S. Senator Hank Brown. More details will be announced in the coming months, and the program will officially open closer to the release of the final report.

This is similar to a program instituted by former Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput in 2006. Archbishop Aquila said it is important for local Catholics to know the program will be funded by archdiocesan reserves, with no money being taken from ministries or charities at parishes, annual diocesan appeals, or Catholic Charities.

“With humility and repentance, we hope the programs announced today offer a path to healing for survivors and their families,” Archbishop Aquila said.

And acknowledging how painful this has been for everyone in the Church, Archbishop Aquila said he hopes this is step towards restoring confidence among the faithful.

“Helping people to restore their trust, to live their faith, that is essential,” said Archbishop Aquila. “And to help them have a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ, so that is my goal in all of this. I know that healing is possible in Jesus Christ.”