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.”
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.”
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.