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: The Pell case: Developments down under

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In three weeks, a panel of senior judges will hear Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of the unjust verdict rendered against him at his retrial in March, when he was convicted of “historical sexual abuse.” That conviction did not come close to meeting the criterion of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is fundamental to criminal law in any rightly-ordered society. The prosecution offered no corroborating evidence sustaining the complainant’s charge. The defense demolished the prosecution’s case, as witness after witness testified that the alleged abuse simply could not have happened under the circumstances charged — in a busy cathedral after Mass, in a secured space.

Yet the jury, which may have ignored instructions from the trial judge as to how evidence should be construed, returned a unanimous verdict of guilty. At the cardinal’s sentencing, the trial judge never once said that he agreed with the jury’s verdict; he did say, multiple times, that he was simply doing what the law required him to do. Cardinal Pell’s appeal will be just as devastating to the prosecution’s case as was his defense at both his first trial (which ended with a hung jury, believed to have favored acquittal) and the retrial. What friends of the cardinal, friends of Australia, and friends of justice must hope is that the appellate judges will get right what the retrial jury manifestly got wrong.

That will not be easy, for the appellate judges will have been subjected to the same public and media hysteria over Cardinal Pell that was indisputably a factor in his conviction on charges demonstrated to be, literally, incredible. Those appellate judges will also know, however, that the reputation of the Australian criminal justice system is at stake in this appeal. And it may be hoped that those judges will display the courage and grit in the face of incoming fire that the rest of the Anglosphere has associated with “Australia” since the Gallipoli campaign in World War I.

In jail for two months now, the cardinal has displayed a remarkable equanimity and good cheer that can only come from a clear conscience. The Melbourne Assessment Prison allows its distinguished prisoner few visitors, beyond his legal team; but those who have gone to the prison intending to cheer up a friend have, in correspondence with me, testified to having found themselves cheered and consoled by Cardinal Pell — a man whose spiritual life was deeply influenced by the examples of Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More during Henry VIII’s persecution of the Church in 16th-century England. The impact of over a half-century of reflection on those epic figures is now being displayed to Cardinal Pell’s visitors and jailers, during what he describes as his extended “retreat.”

Around the world, and in Australia itself, calmer spirits than those baying for George Pell’s blood (and behaving precisely like the deranged French bigots who cheered when the innocent Captain Alfred Dreyfus was condemned to a living death on Devil’s Island) have surfaced new oddities — to put it gently — surrounding the Pell Case.

How is it, for example, that the complainant’s description of the sexual assault he alleges Cardinal Pell committed bears a striking resemblance — to put it gently, again — to an incident of clerical sexual abuse described in Rolling Stone in 2011? How is it that edited transcripts of a post-conviction phone conversation between the cardinal and his cathedral master of ceremonies (who had testified to the sheer physical impossibility of the charges against Pell being true) got into the hands (and thence into the newspaper writing) of a reporter with a history of anti-Pell bias and polemic? What is the web of relationships among the virulently anti-Pell sectors of the Australian media, the police in the state of Victoria, and senior Australian political figures with longstanding grievances against the politically incorrect George Pell? What is the relationship between the local Get Pell gang and those with much to lose from his efforts to clean up the Vatican’s finances?

And what is the state of serious investigative journalism in Australia, when these matters are only investigated by small-circulation journals and independent researchers?

An “unsafe” verdict in Australia is one a jury could not rationally have reached. Friends of truth must hope that the appellate judges, tuning out the mob, will begin to restore safety and rationality to public life Down Under in June.

Featured image by CON CHRONIS/AFP/Getty Images